I’ve been told that this is one of the very best games ever released on the NES. I missed out on it back in the day since it came out so late in the life of the system, around the time when most people had already moved on to various 16-bit systems. Always meant to get around to trying it out and here we are.
I have to say, I don’t really see what all the hype is about. I’ve read that this game was supposed to have pushed the limits of NES hardware to the max, but I’m not really sure how. The colors are drab and everything seems so low-detail, it almost looks like you’re playing a Game Boy Color game. Nothing about the level or enemy design really stood out to me. Neither did anything in the music or sound departments.
What about the gameplay though? Eh. It’s alright. The ability to absorb your enemies’ powers is very interesting in theory, but somehow it never managed to feel very exciting. The abilities and the combat just didn’t stand out to me. I feel like I’ve seen this all done better, and looking and sounding much better, in games like Little Nemo The Dream Master.
I suppose you could argue that it’s not the same for me since I don’t have any nostalgic memories of it and that maybe someone could say the same things about some of my favorite flawed NES games like Strider and Bionic Commando. On the other hand though, I can pick up other NES games I’ve never played before today and still enjoy them quite a bit if they’re my kind of game, so I guess this just isn’t one of them.
Oh, Shinobi. This first game in the classic Shinobi series never really got a good home version. The original arcade game was always the best way to play it, but also the most painfully impossible to beat. This was one of those special asshole Sega games that secretly cuts off your ability to continue in the last set of levels, rendering the game practically impossible to complete without cheating.
It’s just a massively difficult run and gun, where danger is fucking everywhere and you die in just one measly hit. Damn was it a cool ninja game though, and it spawned many highly entertaining sequels, which I guess I’ll have to replay all of again now!
Speaking of impossible asshole games, there was also the original arcade version of Rygar. Another one that I’ve always wanted to finish, but never could because it has the same asshole mechanic where it cuts off your continues in the last few levels, but never bothers to tell you.
Rygar is a really basic side-scroller that gets a bit repetitive and maybe didn’t need to go on for 27 levels, but it did look and sound really good for its time. It’s not a great game at all, especially compared to the highly superior NES version, but I have a little nostalgic itch for it that I had to scratch today.
Rygar is a fucking baby’s game compared to this one though. Karnov was so compelling and mysterious back in 1987, and was so very exciting for the whole one level anyone could get through in it. Seriously, I never saw anyone get any further than level 2 in the arcade version of this. It was another sadistic run and gun where you die in one hit, but it’s about 20 times more punishing than even Shinobi was.
Death just lurks at every turn and the bosses are unbelievably cheap. The checkpoints in the game are insultingly far away from each other too, resulting in huge amounts of progress being lost every time you die, and you WILL die fucking constantly. Absolutely completely impossible to beat without heavy cheating, and in the end it wasn’t even really worth it. Another nostalgic itch scratched, but it was far too annoying to recommend. Stick to the far more manageable NES version instead.
Continuing with the Valis series, it’s Valis 3. I’ve never played this version of it before. Only ever had the Genesis version back in the day. This one features slightly better graphics and music and full voiceovers for the cutscenes. I don’t know that the voiceovers are doing anyone any favors though, the voice acting is pretty atrocious.
It’s a pretty nice looking side-scrolling adventure for its time though. Almost arcade quality graphics. This one actually changes up the repetitive formula of the previous two games, taking a cue from Castlevania 3 and adding two new characters that you can switch to, one with strong magic and one with a whip. This one also gets a good deal more difficult than the first two. The last few levels in particular get really nasty with the platforming and bosses.
It’s a good entry to the series though. Probably the best one still (so far). Only one more to go, but that’s all for now. Until the next adventure into video land…