Publisher: Mindscape (1990)
As yet another game I originally played on my Atari computer in the early 80's, M.U.L.E. is a classic strategy title that employs the laws of economics. It's sounds boring, but it's not at all! The graphics and sound are only average, but M.U.L.E.'s turn-based gameplay is totally original, combining elements of Warcraft and Monopoly. It begins as four creatures are dropped into an empty plot of land on a distant planet. Each creature is controlled by a player or the CPU, and the goal is to earn the most money over a set number of turns. During each turn a player can stake out land and buy robotic "mules" to mine, grow food, and create energy. At the end of each round, the resources are calculated for each player and auctions are held so players can sell their surpluses to other players in need. Random natural events such as earthquakes and tornadoes add an element of unpredictability. It takes a while to appreciate all of M.U.L.E.'s complexities, but once you finally "get it", you'll be hooked! My only complaint is waiting for those auction timers to run out - man those things are slow. Otherwise M.U.L.E. is a fascinating and competitive strategy title. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Magic Johnson's Fast Break
Publisher: Tradewest (1988)
Magic Johnson's Fast Break is a sloppy game, lacking the basic basketball fundamentals you'd expect from a title endorsed by arguably the greatest player of all time. The man could play all five positions
for Pete's sake! At one time!
Not really. Fast Break lacks an NBA license so you play as the red or blue team. The game does have a Pepsi sponsorship, and that Pepsi logo on the scorer's table sticks out like a sore thumb. The action is two-on-two. When taking a shot, the players do not exhibit good form. They just sort of chuck it up there like it's a hot potato. The ball arc looks unnatural and choppy animation makes it hard to determine if the ball even passed through the hoop! The action under the rim is mayhem because you never know who has the ball. Hearing that "steal tone" might cause you to take off up the court, only to discover the other team stole the ball from you.
It's hard to maintain possession against the CPU because he can magically steal it from several feet away. Magic Johnson's smiling mug appears periodically, providing insightful commentary like "keep it up", "great bomb", or "backcourt violation". It sounds like Fast Break is a total bust right? Well, maybe not. I pulled out my Four Score four-player adapter so my friends and I could play a little two-on-two. Wouldn't you know it was actually pretty competitive despite the rampant chaos. For all its cheesiness, Magic Johnson's Fast Break still manages to exude a certain likeable charm. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nihon (1988)
Although definitely cheesy, this side-scrolling shooter has some cool little features that make it worthwhile. In the crowded field of NES shooters, it's the little details that make all of the difference. You begin Magmax by gliding a ship over a green landscape with angular brown roads that remind me of Xevious. As you blast cannons and spinning metal objects, you'll find parts that latch onto your ship, augmenting its size and firepower. When fully "assembled", you'll be controlling a large walking robot that can fire five shots at a time. He looks like Ultraman! Be sure to cherish the time he's on the screen, because it's hard to dodge missiles when you're that big! Fortunately, taking hits only wears you down one piece at a time. Be sure to shoot those floating "cupcakes" which send black projectiles flying in all directions. Not only does this clear out enemies, but it awards big points in the process. In addition to shooting everything in your path, you can fly over gray circles which transport you to underground areas. Here you'll contend with erupting volcanoes and falling stalactites, but if you can shoot the stalactites down into oncoming enemies, you'll earn mega points! Magmax's generic enemies are somewhat redeemed by its awesome boss - a metallic multi-headed dragon! The game's quirky, playful tunes are somewhat irritating at first but tend to grow on you. Magmax isn't a great shooter, but it has an addictive quality that keeps you coming back for "one more game". If you appreciate NES shooting action, you're bound to find something
to like about Magmax. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 74,400
1 or 2 players
Major League Baseball
Publisher: LJN (1988)
Boasting a Major League Baseball license, this game offers all the teams and real players.... from 1987. The players are unnamed (referred to by number), but you do get their actual stats. Sports fans enjoy playing with real players, but the game itself is wretched
. You begin by selecting a team and painstakingly stocking your lineup from the available roster. You would think a default lineup would be available, but no, the game forces you to select position-by-position via a user-hostile interface. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the teams take the field. You'd assume a licensed game would be at least somewhat realistic, but the short, squat players look like they were taken from South Park
for Pete's sake! The batter looks like he's holding a freakin' rolling pin, and the uniforms aren't even the right color! When you hit the ball, the entire screen blanks out for a second before the field appears. Get used to these annoying pauses, because they happen a lot!
The game does a poor job of selecting your fielder. A batter can lay down a bunt right in front of home plate, yet the game will force you to field it with your pitcher!
Even when you field the ball cleanly, there's no way you're throwing out the runner at first. Thrown balls glide through the air like a UFO, slowing down and speeding up in a herky-jerky manner. You'll be rubbing your eyes
in disbelief! The game also has a tendency to forget what a force-out is, or call a runner out who is obviously safe by a mile. Major League Baseball is reprehensible. I can only assume the programmers figured gamers would be so giddy with delight over the MLB license that they'd overlook the ugly graphics, rampant glitches, and general lack of fun. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1986)
This should have been called Mystery
Mansion, because it basically boils down to a lot of little puzzles solved by manipulating lists of items. Part graphic adventure and part text, you use a cursor to build simple sentences like "use key on door" and "give cheese to Jeff". Maniac Mansion's storyline involves three kids trying to save their friend being held hostage by a mad doctor in a large mansion. Before starting, you can select three of six cartoonish characters to play as. These include the obligatory nerd, the gnarly surfer dude, the prostitute (nice dress), and the token black guy. You only control one character at a time, and each has a catchy theme song. The music is great for the NES, but it can still get on your nerves after a while. You can switch it off, but that causes the game to become uncomfortably silent. Maniac Mansion's graphics are pretty good, offering a wide array of well-furnished rooms - including an arcade. It's amusing to explore the house and solve puzzles, at least until you get stuck. Using the cursor is somewhat tedious, but the handy select button lets you easily cycle through the most common commands. The game maintains a whimsical tone, with simple dialogue sprinkled with juvenile humor. The most infamous aspect of the game is how it's possible to explode a hamster in the microwave. The main problem with Maniac Mansion is its complexity, which will turn off all but the most dedicated gamers. There are dozens of items to juggle, and figuring out how each is used requires a lot of trial and error. Some solutions tend to defy logic (give the plastic fruit to the tentacle??) The order in which you complete tasks is critical, and timing is sometimes a factor as well. Last time I checked, video games were supposed to be fun
, not work! My cartridge contained a battery back-up that allowed me to skip ahead to the previous
owner's spot to get a peek at the advanced stages. That's right - 17 years old and the battery is still working! I know a lot of gamers have fond memories of Maniac Mansion, but I don't think this adventure has aged particularly well. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taxan (1988)
My friend Brent brought this game to my attention while reminiscing about how much fun he had playing it as a kid. My previous experience with Mappy was limited to the original arcade game, which can be found on the Namco Greatest Hits collections for various systems. The original Mappy featured a gray mouse using trampolines to reach platforms on a single screen. This NES incarnation takes the concept to the next level by incorporating eight colorful side-scrolling stages. The scenery looks remarkably crisp and vibrant as you explore a railroad, jungle, pirate ship, castle, and haunted graveyard. The soundtrack is loaded with excellent little upbeat tunes. The idea is to collect items (like cheese) in each stage while avoiding a gang of white cats. Some stages feature weapons you can use (like a cannon or bowling ball), and you can also drop toys to distract your adversaries. The arcade-style stages are short and sweet. You're not vulnerable to enemies while in mid-air, even if they overlap you. Some of my friends had a really hard time wrapping their mind around the concept. The game has a few surprises up its sleeve, including a vampire guarding the exit in the graveyard stage (hint: find the cross). The jungle stage is really tough with its moving trampolines, but I enjoyed its Donkey Kong Jr-style vine climbing. Mappy-Land has a family-friendly, wholesome style that should appeal to a broad range of gamers. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: BSC 31,570
Publisher: Tengen (1984)
An old favorite in the arcades, Marble Madness has made a very smooth transition onto the NES. Each stage challenges you to navigate a marble through a maze of platforms, ramps, bridges, tubes, and obstacles. It requires a great deal of finesse to traverse the narrow bridges, and a timer keeps the tension high. The psuedo-3D stages feature numerous interesting gadgets like catapults and vacuums that help or hinder your progress. The graphics are easy on the eyes, and your large marble is no problem to control. Thanks to its relatively short stages, Marble Madness has that "just one more time" quality that keeps you coming back for more. Also included is a terrific head-to-head two-player mode which adds a whole new dimension to the game. And be sure to turn up the volume, because the music is absolutely incredible. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 21,300
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Capcom (1987)
Mega Man was the first in a long
series of platform shooters that continues to this day. This irresistible side-scroller stars a little guy in a blue suit who acquires new weapons from the bosses he defeats. The six selectable stages are ruled by robots with names like Cut Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, Ice Man, Fire Man, and Bomb Man. Since each stage has its own unique look and feel, Mega Man feels like six games in one. Each level is teeming with dangerous but predictable enemies with names like Flying Shell, Screw Bomber, and Killer Bullet. Mega Man can only fire sideways, but his ability to shoot while climbing ladders comes in handy. This game does so many things right, like letting the player tackle the stages in any order. This adds replay value, although experienced players know that taking on the bosses in a certain order will make your life a lot easier. Mega Man is tough, but as you amass weapons the difficulty becomes more manageable. Of course, no matter how good your firepower is you'll still need to perform a lot of death-defying leaps. The stages are intelligently designed but I don't care for those "disappearing blocks" that force you to memorize patterns before executing perfectly timed jumps. Slowdown runs rampant in certain areas, and there's a preponderance of spikes and bottomless pits. Mega Man's simple graphics make good use of color and the soundtrack is pure 8-bit gold. The lack of a password feature is glaring, despite the unlimited continues. It's easy to nit-pick (the box art is atrocious) but it's also easy to see why this game is cherished by so many NES fans. Note: After six Mega Man titles were released for the NES, the series continued on the SNES, the Playstation, and Xbox Live. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SLN 176,300
Publisher: Capcom (1989)
The original Mega Man was great, but this second edition is where the platform-shooting series really hit its stride. The game begins with a cool intro showing a city skyline with Mega Man perched on the roof of a skyscraper. The background story sheds some light on why our hero is constantly forced to fight robots. Mega Man 2 introduces eight new bosses: Wood Man, Clash Man, Quick Man, Heat Man, Metal Man, Air Man, Flash Man, and Bubble Man. The graphics are a little more sophisticated than the first game and the memorable music is some of the best in the series. The multi-layered scenery is crawling with memorable foes like carrot-tossing bunnies and teddy bears with fans in their chests. Larger adversaries include the fire-breathing Hot Dog, Atomic Chicken, Crabbot, and a lantern fish that belches shrimp. Aiding Mega Man on his quest are special items like levitation platforms, elevators, and even a flying sled. The scoring system has been ditched but the game now includes a much-needed password feature. The passwords are coordinates of a grid (A-5, C-2, etc) so they are easy to write down. Like the first game, there is still a preponderance of instant deaths, fatal falls, and areas that require memorization. These are offset however by a lower difficulty and more health icons. Mega Man 2 delivers first-class platforming fun and is arguably the best entry in the NES series. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Capcom (1990)
I hate to badmouth a video game icon like Mega Man, but I'm left with the impression that Capcom "mailed it in" with this third installment. Right off the bat you'll notice the plain title screen with no introductory sequence and no difficulty select. The eight new bosses are Magnet Man, Snake Man, Needle Man, Hard Man, Top Man, Gemini Man, Spark Man, and Shadow Man. Magnet Man's stage features floating magnets that affect your jumps (for better or worse), and Shadow Man's stage blacks out periodically. In Gemini Man's space stage you blast alien eggs to forge through caverns. The cast of supporting villains includes hilarious little pole-vaulters, spiked dinosaurs, and annoying bee swarms. Mega Man 3 has flashes of brilliance but it feels more generic and less polished than the previous game. Case in point is Snake Man's stage which is awfully repetitive and unimaginative. I will give Mega Man 3 credit for introducing the slide move, allowing our hero to quickly pass through narrow openings. Another new addition is his dog Rush, who functions much like the special items of the previous game. Mega Man 3 exhibits quite a bit of slowdown and graphic break-up, and the level designs can be frustrating. The fat cat in Top Man's stage is impossible to beat without a special weapon, and the disappearing blocks in Magnet Man's stage pushed my patience to the edge. Even the tunes sound like outtakes from earlier games. It may be a lukewarm effort, but a second-rate Mega Man game is still better than most NES platformers. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Capcom (1991)
After the underwhelming Mega Man 3, Capcom decided to put a little more effort into their prized franchise. Enter Mega Man 4, which kicks off with a fancy intro shedding more light on Mega Man's origins. As usual, the nefarious Dr. Wily has constructed eight new adversaries: Toad Man, Dust Man, Pharaoh Man, Bright Man, Dive Man, Drill Man, Skull Man, and Ring Man. Mega Man 4 builds upon the solid foundation of its predecessors and incorporates one major new feature: the Mega Buster. Yes, Mega Man can now charge up his weapon to unleash a single powerful shot. The stage designs are accessible yet full of surprises. Dive Man's stage has a bright summer theme with inviting waters and a mechanical whale that fires missiles from its mouth. The torch-lit tombs in the Pharaoh's stage look beautiful and contain mummies that unwrap themselves and toss their own heads! The torrential rain of Toad Man's stage can affect your jumps, so don't forget to use your dog Rush to help elevate. The fossils embedded in the walls of Skull Man's stage is a neat concept. Some elements of the game can be more aggravating than fun. In Bright Man's stage, shooting light bulb-shaped enemies will leave you in the dark temporarily, and Ring Man's stage features rainbow bridges that disappear as you walk over them. The game contains plenty of alternate routes that create a nice risk/reward dynamic. Mega Man 4 was a strong effort on Capcom's part, delivering some of the best platforming action the series has to offer. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Capcom (1992)
Mega Man 5 took the series to the next level with richer graphics, larger bosses, better music, and more eye candy. You'll be treated to snowy mountain peaks in Stone Man's level, lush green jungle in Napalm Man's stage, and brilliant pastel colors in Crystal Man's stage. As usual, there are a nice variety of enemies flying around, including many recycled from previous games. When you shoot those little "hard hat" guys, three miniature versions appear in their place (accompanied by some slow-down). I enjoyed the inventive stages, especially Gravity Man's which frequently reverses the field of gravity. It's the first time I've ever climbed up
a ladder while hanging upside down! Like all Mega Man games, it's important to know when to shoot and when to make a dash. It's often wise to pick off enemies at a distance, because once they gang up on you, you're in trouble. When an enemy is lingering just above or below your shots, be sure to use your Mega Buster which unleashes a much wider shot. One thing I don't like is how enemies quickly regenerate when you briefly retreat a few steps. Mega Man 5 features some really cool weapons like one that generates a wave of water and another that reverses gravity so enemies fall off the screen. The game is tricky but the driving 8-bit tunes will keep you forging ahead. A well-rounded platform-shooter, Mega Man 5 is pretty much everything a fan could ask for. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Capcom (1993)
It's evident that the fighting game craze of the early 90's (Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat) influenced Mega Man 6. The Capcom logo is accompanied by that little jingle most people associate with Street Fighter. The background story tells of a "robot tournament" (held in 20xx of course) which has brought together eight of the world's most powerful robots. The sponsor, Dr. X, proceeds to take control over the robots to facilitate his scheme to take over the world (this guy needs a hobby). When you select a stage you'll view the boss's vital statistics (strength, agility, etc). And if you thought the development team had run out of fresh ideas, think again. Mega Man 6 features some of the best looking stages of the series. Better yet, they tend to be less frustrating and more fun. I love the bright snowy mountains of Blizzard Man's stage, the undersea utopia of Centaur Man's stage, and the shimmering desert sunset in Tomahawk Man's stage. Flame Man's stage has an exotic, Middle-Eastern vibe with floating candles that drop flames into pools of oil, setting them ablaze. I really wish spikes and fire didn't cause instant death, but hey, that's just Mega Man. As usual, the enemies are all over the map including robotic sea lions, pelicans that drop flopping fish, and giant rock monsters with treads. The red fish in Yomato Man's stage always scare the crap
out of me. Mega Man 6 marks the end of the Mega Man's reign on the NES, and it's a fitting send-off for an amazing series. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Konami (1989)
My first experience with the esteemed Metal Gear series was Metal Gear Solid
(Playstation, 1997). That game absolutely blew me away, and I still regard it as one of the greatest video games ever made. Playing this original Metal Gear on the NES is interesting because it sheds light on how certain Metal Gear traditions originated. For example, your special ops soldier "Snake" begins his adventure in a jungle with nothing but a pack of cigarettes. Like subsequent Metal Gear titles, the emphasis is on sneaking by guards and employing a wide range of weapons and items. How do you sneak by guards in a 2D game? You simply walk by them when they're facing the other direction, since they tend to move in predictable patterns. Avoiding detection is supposed to be key, but when spotted by an enemy guard, all you have to do to quell the commotion is exit the current screen. The graphics are lousy, with single-colored guards that barely flinch when punched. You can't move Snake diagonally and you're constantly getting stuck on the scenery. Poorly translated dialogue results in grammatically incoherent lines like "I feel asleep!" and "Attempt to contact missing our Gray Fox". There are plenty of supply trucks to investigate, but half of them automatically transport you to a different area ("Uh Oh, the truck have started to move!"). Cheap hits (including trap doors) will frustrate you to no end and send you back to the jungle where you started. I will give the game credit for is its intense, pulse-pounding musical score. It's truly mpressive for the NES. In the final analysis, Metal Gear did a fair job of establishing some original concepts that would define the series in years to come, but only nostalgic gamers will want to relive this tedious adventure. A sequel by the name of "Snake's Revenge" also appeared on the NES. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Irem (1990)
This side-scrolling shooter is very unique, and by "unique" of course I mean absolutely horrible
. Metalstorm puts you in control of a large "mech" who navigates corridors while blasting cannons and two-legged robots that look like something from Robocop. Metalstorm's gimmick is your ability to "flip gravity" by pressing the jump button while holding the directional pad up or down. This gives you the power to walk and jump on the ceiling, as if you were playing the game upside down. This adds strategy, allowing you to reach new areas and target enemies otherwise out of reach. The opening stage is easy and straightforward, allowing you to gradually get comfortable with the controls. You might even start to think that Metalstorm isn't so bad. Oh, it's bad
all right! Starting with stage two, the environments become more mazelike, incorporating one-way floors, hidden spikes, and traps like walls that crush you from the sides. Unlike most NES shooters where you can actually enjoy
yourself, Metalstorm has you constantly racking your brain to figure out where you can or can't go. The jumping controls are also problematic. Holding down the jump button gives you more height, but in some areas you need to leap with precision, and the platform designs are unforgiving. A password feature is provided, along with a generous number of continues. The game's electronic music is catchy in the first stage, but like the rest of the game, it's all downhill from there. Metalstorm's gravity-flipping gameplay could have been interesting, but thanks to its poorly designed stages, the game has little to offer aside from a splitting headache. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 37,150
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
It's hard to believe this classic platformer was released way back in 1986. The title screen features ominous tones and a barren landscape that sets the atmosphere perfectly. Controlling a character named "Samus" decked out in an astronaut suit, you explore dark caverns of a mysterious planet infested with strange and dangerous life forms. You can fire sideways and straight up, but unfortunately you can't squat down to shoot close to the ground. The aliens seem to know this and tend to crawl just under your range. Metroid features a lot of platform jumping, but you can also roll up into a little ball to squeeze through tight openings. The aliens come in all shapes and sizes, each the sooner you recognize their distinct movement patterns, the better. There are several sub-bosses and a huge "Mother Brain" waiting for you at the end of the game. Metroid is tough, and its regenerating aliens can gang up on you in a hurry. Fortunately there are all kinds of weapons that you can obtain to augment your firepower. The game features good graphics, memorable music, and creepy sound effects. I have a few minor gripes. Many of the areas look very similar, so backtracking can be confusing. Also, there's nothing worse than having to jump for your life out of the dreaded "sea of fire". A long password is provided after you die, and some of the letters are not English. The game's ending is regarded as of the more memorable ones in video game history. A highly acclaimed sequel, Super Metroid, was released for the SNES in 1994. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Camerica (1991)
Having played so many Micro Machines games over the years, I was pretty psyched to finally experience the original NES version. This cartridge is highly sought-after, and it's easy to see why. Micro Machines delivers pure arcade joy as you race toy vehicles through familiar household environments. You'll drive jeeps along a kitchen table, powerboats in a bathtub, formula one cars on a pool table, fly helicopters through the garden, and bounce dune buggies around a beach. Variety is the name of the game, with nine different vehicles and 32 unique tracks! You view the action from overhead and score points when your opponent can't keep up and falls out of view. The scenery sports interesting details like a box of Toppies cereal in the kitchen, sand castles on the beach, and rubber duckies in the bathtub. Micro Machines employs effective scaling techniques to heighten the sensation of jumping ramps or falling off a ledge. A lengthy challenge mode is available for the solo player, but it's rather easy and long. The game is better suited to head-to-head action, lending itself to thrilling races and unabated trash talking. Each tournament consists several randomized stages. You'll be tempted to lean on the accelerator button, but after falling off the kitchen table a few times, you'll learn to take a more cautious approach. To be honest, memorizing the track layouts gives you a huge advantage. The game generally looks great, but for some reason the menu screens are subject to jitters and unsightly artifacts along the edges. On the back of the golden cartridge is an A-B switch, but this didn't seem to have any effect. It doesn't really matter, because Micro Machines represents some of the best racing action you'll find on the NES. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Micro Machines (Aladdin version)
Publisher: Codemasters (1992)
Micro Machines was re-released on a "compact cartridge" that fits into an Aladdin Game Enhancer. As a cartridge-shaped device that fits into your NES, the Aladdin purportedly upgrades your system's memory to 64K for "better graphics and bigger games." It doesn't appear that Micro Machines benefits from this upgrade. For the life of me I can't tell any
difference between this and the original NES cartridge! My friend Chris insists that the visuals are slightly cleaner, but the rest of my friends were not convinced. At the very least I would have expected that glitchy menu screens to have been fixed, but they look exactly the same. It's hardly an upgrade, but Micro Machine's first-class racing action cannot be denied. The frenetic fun of racing toy cars around a house never gets old, especially when competing against a friend. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tecmo (1997)
My friends and I recently became fans of Bomb Jack after playing the obscure arcade game on Tecmo Classic Arcade
(Xbox, 2005). It's a deceptively simple platformer where you're a little superhero who can leap the height of the screen, collecting bombs for points while avoiding baddies. Each screen offers exotic backdrops like an Egyptian pyramid or a German castle. This NES version is pretty much what you'd expect, expanding the scope of the game while watering down its arcade flair. The side-scrolling stages are non-descript with walls, trees, pools of lava, and chests. Enemies like mummies, birds, and skulls materialize out of thin air - sometimes on top of you!
Opening chests (and there are many) requires jumping off
of them first, which turns out to be a major hassle. The controls are bizarre. Hitting the jump button in mid-air causes you to stop suddenly, and if you keep hitting it you can hover sideways. Collect enough "mighty coins" and you'll earn a new costume with special powers. Collect too many coins however and you're banished to some kind of "torture room". Wait what?!
Sandwiched between the side-scrolling levels are single-screen stages more reminiscent of the original game - and frankly a lot more fun! Mighty Bomb Jack's graphics are uninspired but I like the upbeat music. It's challenging to play for score because the game dares you to "glory seek" and take unnecessary risks. At the conclusion of each game you're presented with a "game deviation value" that rates your performance, and I always get 48. While somewhat contrived, Mighty Bomb Jack accomplished what it set out to do. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 109,950
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
Publisher: Nintendo (1987)
Playing this game really opened my eyes to the greatness of the NES. As fun to play now as it was in 1987, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out has aged like wine. Gamers usually associate NES games with relatively small sprites, but the fighters in this boxing game are surprisingly large and well defined. Superbly animated with subtle mannerisms, each endearing character conveys a distinctive personality. I especially love how knocked-out opponents stumble back before hitting the canvas - it looks amazing
. The only element that had to be sacrificed for this home version was the size of your fighter, Little Mac. He's about half the size of his opponents, but at least his height gives you a nice view of the action. He'll face ten colorful characters from around the globe, including Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, Piston Honda, Don Flamenco, and King Hippo. Superb controls let you punch high or low, block, and dodge. Unlike other boxing games, this isn't a button-mashing affair. Each fighter exhibits telltale signs that they're about to punch, and the key is to dodge these moves and retaliate with a flurry of counterpunches. Timing is important, but the process of breaking down your opponent's weaknesses is paramount. Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! is full of surprises, like Mario playing the role of referee and cut-scenes showing Little Mac running in front of the New York skyline as trainer Doc Louis rides alongside him on a bike. What's up with that pink jumpsuit, Mac? The music is so terrific that you never tire of hearing it, and crisp audio effects include Soda Popinski's mocking laughter. I recently played this game with friends Steve and Chris (who played it as kids) and we all had a blast. They taught me that if you press the select button at just the right time
after a round ends, you can restore a chunk of your health. A pass code is offered after every few fights, so you don't always have to start at the beginning. I've never faced Mike Tyson, but if you watch the intro screens, you'll see a picture of him with his toothy grin. I really can't get over how similar this game is to the new Wii version, but as my friend Chris put it, "you can't get any better than perfection." Note: This game was later re-released as "Punch-Out!!" after Mike Tyson got into legal troubles. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 6610
Publisher: Hal (1988)
The NES library is chock-full of early-80's arcade classics, but not all of them lived up to the originals. In this case, Hal managed to screw up Millipede by making the screen too small! Only about one-third of the screen is dedicated to the actual gameplay, with the other half containing scoring information and empty space! There's really no excuse for this. Millipede's gameplay is still fun, despite a noticeable pause whenever the mushrooms scroll down. But this hardly does justice to what was an outstanding arcade title. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 35,754
1 to 2 players.
Milon's Secret Castle
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1987)
The label for this game features an ominous castle with lightning bolts piercing its soaring towers. The actual game looks nothing
like that! The castle is a big brick box and the action takes place during the day. Doors and windows allow you to enter sprawling rooms of ledges, blocks, and springs. Yes, Milon's Secret Castle incorporates all the standard cliches you expect in a platformer. You control a little guy wearing a nightcap. I don't think I've ever seen an actual person wear one of those in real life, by the way. Carnival-style music adds to the unintentionally creepy atmosphere. You fire bubbles at enemies which you can angle slightly upward or downward. This control style is unorthodox but original, and I grew to like it. Stages are populated with a hodgepodge of cute creatures like cyclops, demons, and walruses. Shooting certain blocks reveal dollar signs (money), so you might as well shoot everything in sight and get paid
. Obtaining a key allows you to escape the room, but your real goal is to collect enough money to purchase critical items from the shop. If you enter a new room without a required item, you can toil in misery for a long time before realizing you're hopelessly stuck. The arbitrary nature of this game really stinks, and just getting through the first stage
requires the help of a guide. By the time you face the first boss you're clinging to an ounce of life. And when this game says "Game Over", it really means it.
There are no
continues! Hudsoft Soft produced some great games in their day, but Milon's Secret Castle wasn't one of them. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Bandai (1989)
During the intro to Monster Party a little boy spots a falling star. "The beauty of the star made his eyes moist so he didn't notice that the star fell and landed right in front of him." Prose like that is one reason I adore classic games. That is one big bucket of awful
right there! On the surface Monster Party is an unremarkable side-scroller. The opening stage looks cheesy with its pastel-colored landscape and platforms stamped with smiley faces. Eventually you walk past a large tree and the stage suddenly turns much darker, with those smiley faces transforming into zombie heads. Now that's
more like it! Your initial set of foes include eyeballs with tentacles, dogs with people faces, and punk Asian kids. You can attack by swinging a bat, but since it's short and foes absorb multiple hits, it's hard to avoid taking some damage. Your goal is to collect a key to unlock the door at the end of the stage. Along the way there are caves you enter to reveal items, bosses, but more often than not - empty rooms
. What's the point of that?
In one room you'll find a giant spider who says "Sorry, I'm dead". The key to beating bosses is to deflect their projectiles back at them with well-timed swings of your bat. It's a clever concept widely employed throughout the game. Another excellent feature is the power-up which transforms you into a green winged demon, allowing you to fly around and unleash rapid-fire missiles! You'll want to be in demon form when you face-off against the jack-o-lantern boss in stage one. Between stages you're presented with some of the worst passwords ever devised, mixing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and even punctuation marks
! Some of the seven stages are mazelike, but there are some memorable monster encounters including a green Minotaur that tosses tiny cows. Tuneful melodies play throughout the game which are sure to rekindle some fond memories. Monster Party doesn't look like much but it's an endearing title that will draw you in if you give it a chance. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 134,300
Monster Truck Rally
Publisher: INTV (1990)
Despite adopting a visual style similar to R.C. Pro-Am
(Rare, 1987), Monster Truck Rally is an absolute mess
of a game. Your view of the track is often bewildering, the physics is ridiculous, and the control scheme makes absolutely no sense. And to think - I was expecting to like
this game. I assumed Monster Truck would offer equal parts racing and destruction, but all it delivers is confusion and frustration. The tilted overhead perspective conveys a sense of depth, but the dips and turns of the track are not rendered clearly at all. Not only do hills often resemble turns, but the road often appears to come to an abrupt dead end! Is it any wonder my friends and I were constantly plowing into guardrails? Even crushing rows of cars is lame - about as exciting as crawling through the mud. Then there's the awful control scheme, which only uses one button and yet still
manages to mystify!! I could try to explain how the A button is supposed to both accelerate and shift gears, but I'm trying to limit this review to one paragraph. And if you expected the two-player mode to save the day, you'd be sadly mistaken my friend. When your opponent falls behind, the computer forces him back onto the screen
, often giving him enough of a boost to overtake
you. I actually played the two-player game with the second controller sitting idle on the floor, and almost lost
. You'll catch some air over hills, but that often sends you crashing into invisible walls. But those are the least of your worries. Making contact with another truck sends you into a tailspin, and you usually wind up facing the wrong direction. That certainly doesn't promote a smash-up style of play. I tried a number of the "events" like the "sled pull" and "draw bridge", but each was worst than the last. Never play Monster Truck Rally. It will crush your very soul. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Monster in my Pocket
Publisher: Konami (1992)
Monster in my Pocket is not
a euphemism; it's a line of toys released by Matchbox in 1990. This video game tie-in came with a free exclusive monster, which as you can imagine really jacks up the value of a complete copy. Monster in my Pocket is well-programmed but generic platformer. You can control either a vampire or the Frankenstein monster, but both feel exactly the same. Does the concept of controlling a tiny monster in household environments sound appealing? If you're eight years old, maybe
. You'll hop along furniture and scamper across kitchen counters while vanquishing a wide variety of creatures. I counted 39 different adversaries in the manual for crying out loud! There are zombies, witches, skeletons, ogres, minotaur, and just about anything else you can think of. There's even a God-damned Kraken
for Pete's sake! The creatures tend to be rendered in few colors and subject to break-up, making them hard to discern at times. The controls are really good. The double-jump works like a charm and when you punch you unleash a visual burst of energy. Sometimes you'll find a large key, but all you can do is hurl it at oncoming creeps. The gameplay is ordinary and predictable. The stages are plain and the worst has to be the obligatory sewer level (required by law
). It sucks how you sometimes jump off a table and fall into a mob of monsters milling around below. The two-player simultaneous mode is fun in theory, but in practice it's hard to keep both characters on the screen. Monster in my Pocket is technically sound but I'm afraid you'll forget about this one the minute you shut it off. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 2215
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Taxan (1988)
Mystery Quest is so primitive it's hard to believe this came out in 1988! It's a side-scrolling platformer starring an elf who hops on green blocks, scampers along treetops, and shoots green balls at porcupines and scorpions. The game's innocence is charming but this is clearly a Super Mario Bros.
(NES, 1985) knock-off. When I reached a tall staircase of green blocks I was expecting a flagpole on the other side. You can jump high when running but can't change direction in mid-air, which is aggravating. The collision detection is suspect. It's hard to tell if you're missing enemies or they're just absorbing your shots. Your life continuously drains as you play, which you might not notice until your elf suddenly keels over. If you stand over ground with skulls beneath your "vitality" will drain quickly. This elf would not last long in a graveyard! Floating stars replenish your health, but only a sliver at a time. The first stage seems to go on forever, with hazards so redundant you start to think they're randomly-generated. Stage two takes place in a castle with a maze of hallways and locked doors. There's a giant praying mantis on the prowl, and to be honest that thing is pretty scary! Whatever you do, don't touch water. I find it odd how this elf can survive vicious attacks from giant insects yet instantly dies when he gets wet! As I found myself moving in circles that looping nursery rhyme music pushed me to the brink. I like the simplicity of Mystery Quest but it can't deal with all of its nonsense. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 14,300
Publisher: Acclaim (1989)
NARC combines rapid-fire shooting action with gratuitous gore to create a first-rate NES side scroller. I was instantly hooked on NARC, playing it until my thumb was sore. Judging by the non-stop shooting mayhem, it's no surprise that Eugene Jarvis (Defender, Robotron, Smash TV) had a hand in this. Allegedly an "anti-drug" game, the title screen actually says "Say No To Drugs". And what better way to say no to drugs than by mowing down scores of look-alike drug dealers? You also have the option of "busting" them should you get within arms' reach, but that's not nearly as fun. The well-designed control scheme uses a "double-tap" mechanism to simulate four buttons: jump, duck, shoot, and fire rocket. You have to love how the rockets blast those drug-dealing scumbags into meaty chunks. Some scenes feature attack dogs that can maul you into a bloody mess. Yes, this game is awesome
! Add in a two-player co-op mode, and it is ON! Say no to drugs! Say YES to violence! Wahoo!! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
NES Open Tournament Golf
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
NES Open's simple gameplay and clean graphics make for a fast-paced, addictive experience. A slick user interface makes it easy to set up shots, and you can even apply backspin or topspin. The swing meter is the standard "three-press" variety, but before each shot you select from a slow, medium, or fast meter. The faster meter provides more power, but it's more difficult to hit your shot accurately. NES Open is mainly played from a high overhead perspective, but you do get a close-up of the green, complete with arrows to indicate hills and valleys. A niftly close-up camera angle is employed as the ball approaches the cup, much like Hot Shots Golf (Playstation). One or two players can compete on three different courses. NES Open is one terrific golf game that was well ahead of its time. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Nightmare on Elm St
Publisher: LJN (1989)
The Nightmare on Elm Street film series combined horror with gross-out thrills, introducing one of the most memorable villains of all time. This video game adaptation has a frightening title screen depicting Freddy Kreuger showing off his razor-sharp finger blades. The game is loosely based on the third Elm Street film "The Dream Warriors" in which a group of kids fight back against Freddie by transforming into magical ninjas, wizards, and acrobats. The action gets off to a dubious start as you walk down a neighborhood sidewalk while punching snakes. As you pass decrepit houses it's never clear which ones you're allowed to enter at a given time. Just position yourself under the front steps, push up, and hope for the best. Once inside things get interesting. As you leap between balconies and staircases you'll contend with bats, ghosts, and giant spiders. You need to collect all of Freddie's bones scattered throughout each level, and some blend into the scenery so keep a sharp eye out. It feels very satisfying to see 2000 points appear for each one you snag. Periodically the game goes into "dream mode", transforming the house and enemies into darker, more sinister forms. Giant spiders for example now sport hideous Freddie heads. The good news is that you can now assume your "hero" form, somersaulting around, casting spells, and jump-kicking. While fun, the game suffers from excessive nuisance hazards like egg-dropping birds, converging flies, and rocks falling from thin air. When you see the message "Freddie's coming" you're about to be whisked off to a boss stage, but it only takes a few hits to scare Freddy off. The most shocking aspect of this game is how it supports up to four players at the same time!
I suspect that would be like herding cats but playing coop with a friend is fun enough. Nightmare on Elm Street is underrated. Far from your standard movie cash-in, this sophisticated platformer squeezes the most out of its license. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 119,600
Publisher: Sammy (1990)
After playing so many ninja games on the NES, Ninja Crusaders gave me a bad case of deja vu. Dilapidated skyscrapers paint a bleak picture of the future as your fleet-of-foot ninja bounds between ruins. Square icons equip cool weapons like a whip, bo staff, sword, or throwing stars. When you're not leaping over gaping chasms you're fighting robots that attack in predictable patterns. The controls are tight and your ninja has a high vertical. That's good because one hit will kill you. The second area is called "watery grave" and I love how my ninja can swim without moving his arms or legs. That's talent! The first boss is an impressive-looking skeletal dragon. Ninja Crusaders has a high cheese factor but that's part of its charm. While fighting non-descript robotic foes my friend Chris exclaimed, "What am I fighting? Steel rabbits?
" The fact that smoke pours from my ninja when I die makes me wonder if I'm
a robot. Hmmm. One novel feature of Ninja Crusader is how holding down B lets you transform into an animal like a tiger or scorpion. It seemed awesome at first, but I could never find a practical use for it during the game! The two-player coop feature also falls flat. You'd think two ninjas would be better than one, but it's actually harder
with two players. One guy can't get too far ahead so you have to orchestrate your moves. If a player spawns in a dead-end, the other needs to backtrack so they can regroup. Ninja Crusaders isn't a complete success, but if you like ninja games on the NES you'll probably enjoy this one. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 71,090
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tecmo (1989)
Ninjas are awesome, and when I say awesome, I mean totally sweet
. If you don't believe me, check out the The Official Ninja Web Page
and see for yourself. I can't stop thinking about ninjas which is why I dig Ninja Gaiden so much. It's all the non-stop jumping, slashing, and star-tossing ninjas perform every day in real life. The star of the game, Ryu, is fleshed out via stylized cutscenes that are a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Ninja Gaiden also features a kick-ass soundtrack that's sure to boost your testosterone level. The characters are small but the locations and enemies are diverse and interesting. You begin in a concrete jungle with granular brick facades, storefronts, and sign posts. The first boss encounter takes place in a shadowy bar rendered in amazing detail. Besides jumping and fighting, you can also cling to walls. You use this ability to vault to high places, but it's annoying how you can't actually climb
most walls (unless there's a ladder of course). In terms of difficulty, Ninja Gaiden is brutal. The only thing worse that taking a hit is being knocked off your heels into the nearest pit, which happens with alarming frequency. And how am I supposed to jump on a platform when there's a sword-swinging goon just sitting there waiting for me? Power-up icons help a lot - especially the "fire wheel" that destroys enemies on contact. I just wish it lasted more than a few seconds! You do get unlimited continues, so with a little perseverance you'll make gradual progress. Interestingly, this game won an award back in 1989 for "best ending in a video game". Ninja Gaiden spawned two hit sequels, and the series continues to this day in its various 3D incarnations. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 44,900
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Publisher: Tecmo (1990)
Tecmo didn't waste any time cranking out a sequel to its mega-popular jump-and-slash martial arts hit. Our hero Ryu looks the same but he's more agile in Ninja Gaiden 2. Not only can he climb walls, but he also has the ability to toss projectiles while hanging off of them. The stages offer more variety with locations like a moving train, a snowy mountain ridge, and city rooftops at night (always a crowd pleaser). Intriguing cut scenes are used convey a storyline with no shortage of twists and turns. Ryu encounters mysterious characters he's never met before but follows their instructions anyway. The controls are improved but still could be better. It's nice to scale walls instead of vaulting off everything, but reaching the very top still requires a vault to a nearby ledge. The new power-ups are not particularly useful and often detrimental! The "shadow ninjas" give you two or three trailing "ghosts", but for the most part they are worthless! They rarely hit anything and are distracting as hell! The one power-up you need most - health - is extremely rare. The game features some strange adversaries, including what appear to be giant roaches in red overcoats. Ninja Gaiden 2 is packed with action and frustration. The mountain level has "wind" to help or hinder your jumps, so you'll need to time them perfectly. And whenever you're struck by a projectile you automatically lunge back, sending you plunging into the nearest abyss. And it is really necessary for the stages to be timed? This game is hard enough as it is! Ninja Gaiden II dishes out the martial arts mayhem, but you'd better bring your A-game. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 86,400
Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
Publisher: Tecmo (1991)
Completing the sacred trilogy, Ninja Gaiden III offers more dynamic environments, a pumping soundtrack, and feats of agility like you've never seen. This third chapter begins with a shocking cut-scene showing our hero Ryu killing the same chick he spent the two first games trying to save! What the hell?!
Gaiden 3's visuals have clearly been upgraded from the previous games, with detailed scenery that's remarkably crisp and colorful. The opening stage takes place in a laboratory with grotesque life forms suspended in large tanks of liquid. Imaginative enemies include metallic spiders who patrol ledges, using their single eye to scan for intruders. The controls have been revamped so you can pull yourself onto ledges and even hang off the bottom of platforms and climb hand-over-hand. Jumps are longer and floatier. When slashing Ryu yells "HYA!"
as his katana leaves a nice white streak. Like the previous two games the challenge is relentless. The second stage begins with an arduous trek through the desert with quicksand sucking you down as monsters swarm from above. If you survive, your perilous journey takes you into an underground area with spikes lining the ceiling (don't jump!) and lava below. When the lava begins to rise, you need to constantly jump to stay above it. Unfortunately, soldiers are waiting on the ledges above to knock you into the lava. Stage three takes place in a jungle, if you can get that far. Unlike the first two games, you only get five continues. You lose most of your lives not by depleting your health bar, but by falling into a precipice or lava. Ninja Gaiden III looks, sounds, and controls great, but its harsh level designs will teach you the meaning of pain. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: NS 195,900
Nintendo World Cup
Publisher: Technos (1990)
The graphics in Nintendo World Cup look a heck of a lot like Super Dodge Ball
(Imagesoft, 1988). I can't decide if the players look more like Frankenstein or Arnold Schwarzenegger. When you tackle an opponent his eyes bulge for some reason... kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall! This game is deeper than Soccer
(Nintendo, 1985) but far less playable. The screen is a mess! The scrolling is jerky and the graphic break-up is ugly. Bad physics causes the ball to float through the air in an unnatural manner. I was looking forward to trying this with four players, but it was confusing because all the players look the same. The unorthodox controls have a major learning curve. After five minutes my friend Chris asked "which button is to kick?
" That's never a good sign for a soccer
game. Once my friends learned how to tackle they start beating the crap out of each other like a bunch of Hope Solos. I had more luck playing alone. Before each match you adjust settings for offensive strategy, defensive strategy, and the option to allow cpu teammates to shoot (hell yes!
). What's missing is a difficulty setting. During the game you only see a small section of the field, but there's a radar at the bottom of the screen to track your location. You only control one player for the entire game, but can issue orders to teammates like "pass" and "shoot" (to which they normally reply "I can't!
") I appreciate how there's no offside penalties, but things get confusing when players overlap in front of the goal. Hitting both buttons performs a bicycle kick, and it's satisfying to score that way. I find it hilarious how injured players remain on the field, lying lifeless as play continues around them. Nintendo World Cup has some advanced features, but it's too awkward and sloppy to recommend. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Kemco (1990)
North and South has come highly recommended over the years, and I can't get over just how sophisticated this Civil War-themed title turned out to be. It's like a board game, real-time strategy title, and platform shooter all rolled into one. You choose a side (Union or Confederate) against the CPU or a friend. You can adjust the difficulty for each side and even select the year from 1861 through 1864. The year reflects the actual conditions of the war at that time, adding historical authenticity. I noticed one screen of intro text refers to the war starting at Fort Sumner instead of Fort Sumter, but at least the manual got it right. It's interesting to see such heavy subject matter represented using whimsical cartoon characters. You begin with a map of the states and territories of the time, extending out west to Texas. During each turn you can move your forces between contiguous states and can even combine them. When armies collide the screen becomes a battlefield with tiny infantry, cavalry, and cannons on each side. The battles are fast and furious as you toggle between units on the fly while trying to wipe out the other side. The controls are remarkably intuitive and it's easy to see what's happening despite the tiny soldiers. The diverse battlefields range from open prairies to desert canyons to river valleys. Taking over a state requires capturing your enemy's fort. This is played out via a side-scrolling level where you run the length of the fort while fighting off oncoming soldiers controlled by your opponent. Icons race across the bottom, adding a sense of urgency as you try to beat the clock. This might be the weakest part of the game. The controls could be better and I think there could be better balance. Make it to the end of the fort and you'll raise your flag to a nice rendition of Dixie or Yankee Doodle. If you control two towns on the railroad line you'll generate cash to fund new armies. Should your opponent capture a state on the railroad line he can try to rob your train!
They thought of everything in this game. You even have the option to enable weather events, Indian and Mexican interference, and reinforcements from Europe (via ship). It's rare that you see an NES game with this much thoughtful detail. While brilliant in design, North and South does have a substantial learning curve. It's not a pick-up-and-play title but if you're willing to dig deep you'll find a treasure of a game. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.