NES Reviews N

NARC
Grade: A
Publisher: Acclaim (1989)
Reviewed: 2002/5/14

screenshotNARC 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.
1 or 2 players 

NES Open Tournament Golf
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
Reviewed: 2002/2/13

screenshotNES 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.
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1 or 2 players 

Nightmare on Elm St
Grade: B

screenshotThe 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.
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Our high score: 119,600
1 player 

Ninja Crusaders
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sammy (1990)
Reviewed: 2017/12/5

screenshotAfter 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 

Ninja Gaiden
Grade: B-
Publisher: Tecmo (1989)
Reviewed: 2017/7/22

screenshotNinjas 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
1 player 

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Grade: B-
Publisher: Tecmo (1990)
Reviewed: 2017/7/22

screenshotTecmo 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.
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Our high score: 86,400
1 player 

Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
Grade: B-
Publisher: Tecmo (1991)
Reviewed: 2017/7/22

screenshotCompleting 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.
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Our high score: NS 195,900
1 player 

Nintendo World Cup
Grade: D
Publisher: Technos (1990)
Reviewed: 2017/9/1

screenshotThe 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.
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1 to 4 players 

North and South
Grade: B
Publisher: Kemco (1990)
Reviewed: 2020/7/4

screenshotNorth 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.
1 or 2 players 


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