Publisher: Sammy (1990)
Here's a full-court, five-on-five basketball game along the lines of Double Dribble. Unfortunately, Ultimate Basketball doesn't offer the same level of playability or arcade charm. The players all appear to be holding their "johnsons", and the controls are awkward. Passing is problematic, and too many inbound passes sail right out-of-bounds, which is inexcusable. Stealing is hard, but drawing underserved fouls seems to be no problem at all! No warning is given as the clock ticks down at the end of each half, which is really irritating. Ultimate Basketball's graphics are very good, with a finely detailed court and even players sitting on the bench. Dunks, three pointers, and foul shots are rendered with impressive full-screen animations. These high-flyers are fun to watch, but it's hilarious when they "forget" to dunk and come down with the ball instead - resulting in a traveling violation! The CPU opponent is excessively cheap, intercepting and stealing at will, so you'll want to stick with the two-player action. Ultimate Basketball offers a half-time show, but it's incredibly boring, so what's the point? One thing Ultimate Basketball does have going for it is the music - it rocks. But despite high marks for audio and presentation, Ultimate Basketball takes a back seat to Double Dribble when it comes to b-ball action on the NES. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Codemasters (1991)
Ultimate Stuntman is absolutely terrific, but its name is somewhat misleading. The game offers a variety of unique and exciting stages filled with fast-paced, non-stop shooting action. The first stage plays like a turbo-charged Spy Hunter, as you careen down a road in a car, flying off ramps and shooting everything in sight. The second stage resembles more of a traditional side-scroller, as you jump between platforms, collect keys, and shoot the bad guys. My advice for this stage is to shoot constantly
, even when jumping. Next there's a Crazy Climber-inspired level where you scale the side of a building while avoiding falling objects and giant spiders. Subsequent stages feature additional challenges like bomb disarming, bosses, and more driving action. I had so much fun playing this game that it was hard to stop long enough to write the review. The graphics are outstanding and the control is right on the money. If you want to have a good time on your NES, you can't go wrong with Ultimate Stuntman. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 11,300
Publisher: Icom (1991)
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
Is Nintendo really responsible for this worthless piece of crap
? Granted, most old fighting games (especially pre-Street Fighter 2) have aged poorly, but this one-on-one slugfest is pathetic
. With its cheesy graphics, hokey music, and unresponsive controls, playing Urban Champion is a colossal waste of time! The two cartoonish fighters look and control exactly the same, except one has blue hair and the other has green hair! Your lame attacks are limited to high and low punches, and you can also block. The fights tend to unfold in slow motion, and the sluggish controls negate any chance of skill or strategy playing a role. The sheer monotony of trading punches with the other guy is only relieved by the occasional police car driving by, or a lady dropping a flowerpot from a window. It's somewhat comical how the fighters strike innocent poses until the cop passes, but that novelty wears thin in a hurry. Once you push your opponent to the edge of the screen, he'll roll off, letting you progress to the next screen. Urban Champion's backgrounds are uninspired to say the least, with generic storefronts that cycle endlessly. You can duke it out against a friend or the computer, but I strongly recommend you don't. Personally, I prefer to play a game with more depth - like Pong
for example. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 9,380
1 or 2 player
Vice: Project Doom
Publisher: Sammy (1991)
Sammy is a first-class game developer, so it's no surprise that Vice kicks some serious ass. In Project Doom's storyline aliens have infiltrated the human race and your team of investigators is trying to expose them. Project Doom has a real cinematic flair. Like a motion picture, you play the first stage before
you actually see the title screen! Likewise, well executed cut scenes convey an interesting tale between the stages. Most levels are your standard NES "jump and shoot" fare, but Project Doom is a big step up in terms of quality. Your character, decked out in jeans and a leather jacket, is realistically animated, especially when climbing ladders. He's equipped with short, medium, and long-ranged weapons. Thugs range from spiky-hair creeps, to pumpkin-head freaks, to giant ferrets, to guys in hoods on pogo sticks (huh?). The platform stages are well designed, but occasional narrow ledges account for some cheap deaths, and the only thing worse than falling off a ledge is being knocked off (curses!). Besides the platform stages, there are also break-neck car chases and first-person shooting levels. The car stages play like vertical shooters, with flying cones and roadblocks that are great fun to plow into. The backgrounds look outstanding, with gorgeous city skylines comparable to those in Streets of Rage on the Genesis. With its killer graphics, additive gameplay, and nonstop action, Vice: Project Doom will push your NES to the limit. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
It may look awful, but Volleyball isn't so bad once you get the hang of it. The controls aren't particularly intuitive, so it might take a few practice games before you get comfortable. The teams are six-on-six, and the court is presented from a raised side angle. Behind the court you can see a crowd and scoreboard, and there's even a referee sitting at one end of the net. Between serves there appears to be a lot of "dirty dancing" happening on the court, with players thrusting their hips in a suggestive manner. I have no idea what that's all about. Once the ball is served, one button is used to bump and set, and the other for spike and block. Performing a set requires judging the ball's shadow and carefully positioning your players. Spikes are tough to execute because you need to time your leaps perfectly. It's undeniably satisfying when you execute one though, especially when you nail some poor schmuck in the face. Volleyball is mildly entertaining against a friend or the computer, but I should point out a few issues with the game's design. First, you control three players at a time, but don't know which trio will be selected until the last possible instant. Second, the high-flying ball often goes off the top of the screen, which is seriously problematic when you're trying to time a spike. Volleyball will do in a pinch, but as you've probably guessed by now, there are better volleyball titles for the NES. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Werewolf: The Last Warrior
Publisher: Data East (1990)
Our high score: 11,400
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Jaleco (1991)
Whomp 'Em is one of those "me too" 2D platformers that ruled the NES back in the day. In this one you play the role of a young Native American venturing into magical lands while seeking lost totems. The gameplay is strictly by-the-numbers. Upon completing the generic opening stage, you can play the next six in any order, and the selection screen has "Mega Man" written all over it. Each stage features a unique theme, and with names like Sacred Woods, Ice Ritual, Fire Test, and Water Test, you can easily imagine what they look like. Whomp 'Em's graphics are sharp but not particularly memorable in any way. The controls are responsive as you hop between platforms and battle bugs, flaming birds, freaky wooden men, and a lot
of floating eyeballs. You can thrust your spear straight ahead, but most enemies approach from a high angle, which is not
very convenient! And why do all these eyeballs bounce around
on thin air? Being attacked by giant eyeballs seems reasonable enough, but this bouncing business crosses the line. Other irritations include enemies that split into two, or worse yet knock you off your precarious ledge (into lava more often than not). Most enemies can sustain multiple hits, and even a lowly snail requires three solid hits to kill. Running through each stage while avoiding the creatures is often your best option. The best aspect of the game is its lively 8-bit soundtrack, which is as catchy as it is nostalgic. Unfortunately there's no score or password feature - just infinite continues. Whomp 'Em is not a bad game per se, but it doesn't offer anything that's already been done in other NES games - and done better
. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
In the climax of many old western movies, it was common for the hero and villain to face each other in a shootout in the middle of an empty street as the townsfolk looked on. Each man would place their hand near their gun, but neither would draw until the other guy flinched. Wild Gunman recreates the scenario over and over again, trotting out one gunslinger after the next. There are a nice variety of foes including a tall lanky gunslinger and a short Mexican wearing a poncho. When they yell "fire!", you have literally a fraction of a second to get off a shot. Wild Gunman's controls are very forgiving and highly responsive. Your reaction time is actually displayed on the screen after a successful shot, and it's interesting to see how fast your reflexes are, with times as low as .27. A successful shot results in a comical animation, like a hat flying off or pants falling down. The first of the three variations is easy and repetitive, and I played until I was bored. The second variation adds more challenge as you face two
villains side-by-side. Sometimes they both shoot, but sometimes only one will draw, so you need to pay attention. The third variation depicts the front of a saloon with various characters appearing in the windows. It sounds like fun, but like the first variation, it's too easy and drags on for too long. While not particularly challenging or addicting, the game does have a certain degree of charm and personality. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 128,300
Publisher: Epyx (1987)
I've played some great versions of Winter Games on other consoles (like the Atari 7800), but this NES edition is a complete flop. There are only four events: hot dog, speed skating, figure skating, and bobsled. Heck, the Atari 2600
version had a better selection! The ski jumping and biathlon events are especially glaring in their absence, and only two players can compete at a time. After watching the uninspired opening ceremony (which looks suspiciously like the one in Summer Games), you begin with the hot dog competition. The idea here is to jump off a ramp on skis and perform tricks in mid-air. Unfortunately, you're only in the air for a split-second so there's not much time to get creative. The second event, speed skating, isn't bad because it lets you go head-to-head with an opponent - the only
event to do so! Next we have figure skating (ugh). Playing through one skating routine was the longest single minute I've ever had to endure. As if the unresponsive controls weren't bad enough, jerky animation renders this one unplayable. Bobsled racing is the last event, and even this
is boring! Don't bother looking at the big map of the course - just keep an eye on your sled. When it begins sliding up one side of the pipe, just push the other way to prevent it from tipping over. Winter Games unceremoniously ends by returning you to the main menu, without even bothering to mention who won. High scores are recorded on world record screens, but I don't know if that was ever battery backed-up. The best thing about Winter Games is that it's over so quickly. Wow, this is really a half-hearted translation of what should have been a quality game. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: bobsled
Our high score: 52.98
1 or 2 players
Wizards and Warriors
Publisher: Rare (1987)
In contrast to the realistic warrior depicted on the game's label, Wizards and Warriors is a somewhat whimsical platformer. You control a goofy-looking knight who hops his way through forests, caves, and castles. I say "hops" because each area is a set of narrow platforms that tend to go up and up. The jumping controls are forgiving enough, but taking a fall can drop you back a long way
. As you're falling past dozens of ledges, you might ask yourself, "Am I going to have to climb all the way back up?
" Yes, I'm afraid you are. Your knight wields a sword (duh!
), but its controls are weird. Pressing a button causes the thing to waggle in front of you. Considering enemies die just by making contact
with the blade, you wonder if hitting a button is even necessary!
The platform jumping is needlessly complicated by endless birds and bugs that relentlessly swarm you. Why must developers inflict these things upon us? Considering the constant damage I seemed to be taking, I'm amazed I made any progress in this game at all! It's rife with design flaws, but Wizards and Warriors is fun to play for score. There are tons of items to collect, and it's satisfying how they flash point totals as you snag them. The soundtrack has a nice Elizabethan flavor that's not unlike Ghosts 'N Goblins
(Capcom, 1986). Wizards and Warriors is not what I had in mind, but it's moderately fun in small doses. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 46,425
Publisher: Epyx (1986)
Recommended variation: caber throw
Our high score: 23'11"
1 to 4 players
Wrath of the Black Manta
Publisher: Taito (1989)
Our high score: 57,000
Publisher: Nintendo (1985)
How could a 1985 Nintendo title starring Mario and Luigi end up on the scrap heap of history? Wrecking Crew seems to hold so much potential. The premise is to destroy all the walls in each vertical-scrolling stage while avoiding goons with names like "Gotchawrench" and "Eggplant Man". While standing in front of a wall you press a button to smash it with a hammer, and sometimes they require multiple whacks. Spicing things up are collapsing "ladder walls", bombs that trigger chain reactions, and pillars that crush baddies a la Dig Dug
(Atari 5200, 1983). I like seeing those point values pop up all over the screen as I destroy stuff. The first few screens have an easy-going arcade vibe, but pretty soon the the stages turn into brain-teasers. Instead of platform fun you find yourself having to perform a specific set of actions in a set period of time. You can fall from any distance so it's usually wise to start from the top of the screen and work your way down. Take care not to destroy a vital ladder or you'll leave yourself in what the manual calls a "hopeless situation". Trust me - this happens all the time!
You need to think fast in this game. Take too long and fireballs emerge from the edge of the screen. Completing each stage is a challenge, but once you figure them out you're basically just going through the motions. Fortunately there's a stage select for the 100 (!) stages. A design mode lets you create your own levels, but with no way to save your progress you won't want to invest a lot of time with that. Wrecking Crew has some interesting elements but comes up short in the fun department. That said, puzzle-minded gamers will find this long-lost NES title a source of fascination. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 96,700
1 or 2 players
Wurm: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Publisher: Asmik (1991)
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Namco (1988)
It's hard to find fault with such a faithful translation of this "semi-classic" arcade game. Xevious was not only the first vertically-scrolling shooter, but offered the ability to fire missiles at airborne enemies while bombing ground installations below. For best results, I suggest holding down the fire button the whole time and concentrate on timing your bombs. By precisely aiming between two closely-positioned ground targets, it's possible to take both of them out with a single bomb. The scenery consists of generic foliage and brown roads, and the buildings lack the 3D illusion they conveyed in the arcade version. Another difference is the difficulty level. The arcade game was relentlessly hard, but this version is far more accessible. The problem is, once you become proficient at the game, you'll still have to sit through the tedious early stages each time you play. Xevious was also one of the first games to incorporate large "bosses", and thankfully they're not very hard to destroy. One thing I don't
like about Xevious is those black missiles that seem to materialize out of nowhere. The game includes a two-player mode, but it's alternating turns only. Xevious hardly seems like the groundbreaking game it once was, but this well-designed shooter is still a good time. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 59,750
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1989)
Composed of familiar elements culled from countless other NES titles, Xexyz is the Frankenstein
of NES cartridges. Is there anything
original here at all?
Most NES games try to adopt some sort of theme, but Xexyz is all over the place. There are fairies, stone gods, talking frogs, robots, and space ships. One minute it feels like Zelda clone, and the next it feels like a side-scrolling shooter. Is your character supposed to be an armored knight or some kind of space man? The gameplay is pretty conventional as you jump between platforms, collect items, and destroy enemies. The colorful scenery is forgettable, but the rapid-fire shooting controls are quite good. One of the more effective power-ups is a "bouncing ball" that lets you attack enemies from all sorts of odd angles. Xexyz is cheesy, but in an amusing way. Strangers hand over large sums of cash for no apparent reason, and bosses announce beforehand what you'll win if you beat them. There are side-scrolling, space-ship shooting sections that branch, but if you guess the wrong route you'll have to repeat the entire area. Who in the heck thought that
was a good idea?? Probably the same guy who put dead ends in the platform areas! The looping background music is so grating that I actually muted the volume. Xexyz doesn't make much sense, and the dialogue would be unbearable if not for amusing typos like "I can give you some imformation." Xexyz does a lot of things, but does none of them particularly well. Lacking an identity of its own, Xexyz finds itself suspended in the "realm of games that time forgot". © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 23,020
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Capcom (1990)
For the benefit of those not yet born in 1990 the "Noid" was an animated character created by Domino's Pizza to represent bad pizza or something like that. Considering their slogan was "Avoid the Noid" it's kind of odd they'd celebrate this ugly little troll in a video game. Apparently Capcom incorporated "Yo!" into the title to give the game some instant street cred. So is this Noid just as obnoxious as the one in the old commercials? You bet!
The first stage takes place on a pier over rising and falling water. The platform action seems perfectly acceptable with its responsive controls, colorful scenery, and playful music. Whipping out your yo-yo lets you knock seagulls and Elmer Fudd-types off the screen. But why do I keep dying? Oh I see
- that rising and falling water line is more than just a visual effect. If that water creeps up over your platform by even a millimeter
you're one dead noid. If you think that's harsh, wait until you play stage two. It's the obligatory "ice stage" where you're expected to perform unlikely feats like hopping between floating ice cubes. You'd think they'd save something that aggravating for stage five or six, but you must understand - in Yo! Noid every stage
is aggravating. It's like the designers tried to come up with every conceivable way to screw over the player. Between stages you play a simple "pizza eating" card game which provides a brief respite from the frustration. Yo! Noid is one of those games that can't be enjoyed - only endured. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 25800
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
You might be expecting (and hoping for) a side-scrolling romp, but Yoshi is actually a well-constructed Tetris clone. Easy to learn, this little puzzle game is hard to resist! The game "board" features four slots, with objects like ghosts, squid, eggshells, and plants falling from the top. When you stack two of the same type, they disappear and you score. But instead of moving the falling pieces, you swap the columns
using Mario on the bottom of the screen. As with Tetris, the game demands fast reflexes and quick thinking, especially as columns begin to grow. It sounds simple enough, but there's one little wrinkle. If you allow the top half of an egg to fall on a column that contains a bottom half, the two will join and eliminate everything in between - resulting in a nice bonus. This not only adds strategy, but also encourages a certain degree of risk-taking. Yoshi isn't much to look at and the music is only fair, but a game like this doesn't require a lot of flare. Several skill levels and speed variations are available. There's a two-player head-to-head mode, but it's flawed. Instead of competing for score, the winner is the player who lasts longest
, which does not
encourage competitive play. Even so, Yoshi is a charming little title that should appeal to fun-loving gamers of all ages. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2 Fast
Our high score: 810
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
Coming on the heels of the addictive puzzler Yoshi, Yoshi's Cookie provides a completely different challenge. This time you are presented with a grid of cookies of various shapes. You rotate the rows and columns trying to create a complete row or column of the same cookie, which eliminates that row. You must clear all the cookies to advance to the next level. Meanwhile, new rows and columns approach from above and to the right. I like the fact that you can actually "clear" the levels as opposed to playing until you get overwhelmed. I also enjoyed how it's possible to stumble across cool combos accidentally. Yoshi's Cookie is original and fun, but it didn't quite suck me in like the original Yoshi did. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3 Med
Our high score: 10,850
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Pony (1986)
As Zanac beautifully illustrates, a shooter doesn't need cutting-edge graphics or devastating explosions to be satisfying and fun. This game appears totally generic on the surface, but its addictive gameplay is anything but! A vertical shooter of the highest quality, Zanac excels with crisp controls, clean visuals, imaginative weapons, and rock-solid gameplay. Your ship is quite agile, and despite the barrages of missiles you encounter, a skilled player can always find an escape route. The enemies are simple in shape and modest in size, but since they are generated at random, you'll encounter a different pattern of attacks each time you play. That's a pretty innovative concept for an NES title. Your upgradeable main cannon fires forward, but you also have a devastating "special weapon" that comes in four varieties including a spinning force field and timed smart bomb. Special weapon icons are labeled by number, so you can strategically select the best one for your current situation. The game is a blast to play, and there's no sign of slowdown even when dozens of objects fill the screen. Zanac's background graphics are attractive renderings of planet surfaces and space stations, and the high-energy soundtrack will really get the blood pumping. With little fanfare, Zanac's gameplay achieves that perfect balance few other shooters can match. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 93,600
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
Save mechanism: Battery
Zelda, The Legend of
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
This revolutionary title brilliantly combined hack-n-slash action with RPG-style adventure, challenging both your mind and reflexes. It was also the first cartridge to feature a battery backup. So has this 1986 classic managed to stand the test of time? Yes! Playing it for a first time in many years, it struck me how unlike contemporary Zelda adventures, this one doesn't "hold your hand" through the first stage or two. No, you're tossed straight to the wolves from the very start! You'll die repeatedly before you gain enough strength to defeat monsters, but stick with it, because the game gets easier and more interesting as you progress. Zelda's world is a rectangular patchwork of screens with forest, desert, water, and mountain environments. Scattered throughout the landscape are wandering monsters, multi-level dungeons, merchants, and wise men that offer advice (like "walk into the water fall"). When your life meter is full, your sword can fire projectiles, making combat a heck
of a lot easier. It's fascinating to see how so many of the weapons, monsters, and musical themes in this game have endured throughout the entire series. Legend of Zelda may be timeless, but it does lack the polish of subsequent chapters. It's annoying how monsters materialize briefly after you enter a screen, leading to some really cheap deaths. Upon reaching the edge of the "world", the screens start repeating in a confusing manner. Money is hard to scrounge up, and I would not
recommend playing the gambling mini-games. Despite these quibbles, the Legend of Zelda is almost as fun to play now as it was back in the day. Plus, it's kind of refreshing to play a Zelda game that you can finish in a weekend. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Kaze (1991)
This might just be the most bizarre title I've played on the NES - or any
system for that matter. Zombie Nation is a side-scrolling shooter that lets you unload rapid-fire missiles to demolish buildings, tanks, aircraft, and even take down a possessed Statue of Liberty. If you were controlling a helicopter this game would make perfect sense. Instead you're controlling the humongous head of some chubby Asian dude who appears to be hocking loogies
at everything in sight. How the "zombies" fit in is anyone's guess. Are those army men firing at me zombies? I don't know, but I like the high-pitched noises they make when I incinerate them. Periodically you'll see a falling body, and catching these will augment your firepower. And firepower is where the game really shines. The degree of destruction you can unleash is truly awesome as you obliterate buildings that instantly go up in flames. Even the game itself struggles to keep up with the carnage, causing your head to flicker badly as a consequence. Take extra care to avoid the laser beams, which pretty much drain your entire life bar. Even those that appear to be in the distance are deadly. The graphics - especially the city skylines - look pretty spectacular. You only get one life, and novice players will find themselves staring at "game over" after just 5 or 10 seconds. You can select among four stages and two difficulty levels. Zombie Nation really took me by surprise. This shooter is so weird, crazy, and downright stupid that I can't get enough of it. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Easy
Our high score: 202,500