Haven’t done one of these for a while! Busy times. This is actually two separate short sessions mashed into one. Don’t tell anybody!
One of the ultimate NES classics if you ask me. Wizards & Warriors is a very flawed, early NES game, but it was a valiant effort for its time that ended up being very memorable against all odds.
Movement and combat are both clunky as hell and the level design can be maddeningly convoluted, but there’s just something so compelling about it all. The art’s actually really uneven too, with some enemies and environments looking really cool for their time and others looking weirdly unfinished, like that one spider boss that looks like it was drawn in MS Paint and then someone forgot to animate it so it just moves weirdly around the screen on a dangling web string without ever actually moving.
For the most part it looks pretty good for its time though and has a weirdly compelling look and feel to it all, along with a super catchy soundtrack. There’s a lot of running around getting lost and backtracking to find all the elusive gems and keys you require to proceed too, but at least the game gives you unlimited continues and you lose little to no progress when you die.
And then there was the sequel, whose only noteworthy characteristic is that it had Fabio on the cover for some reason.
I guess they must have spent all the budget for this on Fabio being in all the promo art because this game is fucking awful. Everything about it somehow became worse. Ugly visual design, forgettable music, even worse combat and platforming, and even more convoluted level design. It’s just a mess. I never bothered trying to get very far in it as a kid and I gave up on it even quicker today.
There was a 3rd game and a Game Boy spinoff, but I don’t think I can manage to care enough to try them at this point.
Capcom made the arcade version of Alien vs. Predator and it’s basically the same as every other Capcom beat-em-up ever made.
They all just follow the same old Final Fight formula, yet they never seem to get old (to me anyway). Just a lot of simplistic button-mashing baddie beating with weapons and explosions everywhere and cool enemy and boss designs. You can’t really go wrong with a Capcom beat-em-up, especially when it’s packed full of Aliens and you get to play as a Predator.
This was always one of my favorites to try to play as a kid, though I could never come anywhere close to beating it. I don’t think I ever even made it past stage 2. Little did I know that I never even had a chance.
Rolling Thunder is a run-and-gun that has a great soundtrack and some really impressive character animations for its time. It seems simple enough, just walk forward and blast away at the bumbling minions that appear before you. The game says there’s only 5 stages so it seems like it should be do-able, but secretly, this is a game that was designed to be absolutely unwinnable. The difficulty increases by a massive amount after the first few stages, especially since you have to redo pretty huge sections of the stages if you die, and you die really easily. That big looking life bar is completely misleading because you actually will die in only 1-2 hits, depending on if you take a melee hit or a bullet. Oh, you also have pretty strict time limits on every stage too. If you aren’t constantly on the move, you won’t make it out in time.
And if you should miraculously make it through all 5 stages? Fuck you, that wasn’t the real ending, time for the second quest! Yep, you not only go back to stage 1, but the difficulty is turned up to an unbelievably high level and the stages have even been altered to be even more difficult. It’s not even just that there are more enemies too, and there are A LOT more, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that these altered levels were specifically designed to be impossible. Look at this shit:
This is NOT a platforming game, so these jumps are much, much harder than they look and of course if those guys touch you you’re immediately dead too. Oh, and if you shoot them? They explode into 4 more slightly smaller copies of themselves. It just goes on and on like that to the point that even with save states and turning invincible mode on in the dip switches, it was still really hard to complete, but damn it, I finally did it after all these years. Maybe I should have just stuck with the console version, but the NES couldn’t come anywhere close to replicating these graphics at the time. Maybe I’ll give it a try someday just to see what it’s like though…
Naturally, my next stop was Rolling Thunder 2. I’ve never played either of the sequels. Until recently I thought they only ever game out on Genesis, because I’ve never seen Rolling Thunder 2 in any arcade, but apparently it did exist, and you know what? It makes the first game look like a game for babies…
The sequel does away with the animated look of the previous game and makes everything a great deal more detailed and animated, including the new look of the bad guys who are now some kind of cyborgs I guess. It looks nice for what it is, but I think I actually preferred the look and sound of the original.
Man, this is another completely impossible game too. Again, it starts out seeming all bright and silly, opening on some kind of beach resort with an oddly chirpy soundtrack that sounds like it belongs in a comedy game, but it isn’t long before the game shows you that it means business. You need to have incredibly quick reaction time to survive the hordes of deadly enemies, and you know what? Even then, it still won’t be enough.
I’m disappointed to say that I couldn’t finish the game, though oh did I try. I actually got all the way to the last boss, but I just couldn’t beat him. The final stage is another sadistically difficult level that was clearly designed to be unsurvivable. It’s just a series of absolutely unwinnable fights against huge groups of enemies running, shooting, and throwing grenades at you from both side with no cover in sight and an insulting shortage of ammo supply rooms. You also get no checkpoints at all, so when you die you have to start the entire very long stage over again. Even with hours of trying to save-state-scum my way through, by the time I reached the end, I had no extra ammo and not enough time to possibly chip away at his huge amount of health with my slow emergency back-up gun. The only way to win would be to somehow not use ammo on the way to him so you’d have enough fast bullets left to kill him with in the short time you have left, and it’s just not possible to do so.
Actually, I just looked up some videos online and I guess it is technically possible, but you have to be some kind of crazy video game savant to do so.
Yeah, I’m never going to be able to do that. Guess I should have tried the Genesis version! Maybe next time…
Thus ends another installment of Night of the Emus. It may be a while again before I have time for another one, but oh, it will return…
Time for a bit of arcade fun this time…
Robocop was really impressive in terms of graphics, sound (although the Robocop sound bites get a bit repetitive), and gameplay for its time. It was a real quarter sucking beast though. The first few levels make it seem like a pretty standard beat-em-up in the vein of Bad Dudes (as in tough, but do-able), but then the difficulty shoots up to ridiculous levels and just keeps rising beyond belief. In the last few levels you can easily find almost the whole screen covered by enemies, and you can end up dying in literally 2 seconds (and you only get 1 life per credit). Pretty much entirely impossible to beat in the arcades, but it’s fun to take on at home with unlimited credits.
Holy shit, where did this game come from? I just picked it at random because I thought it might make for a good Halloween game. I’ve never seen this in any arcade before. Never even heard of it. This game is fucking amazing. It’s kind of like King of the Monsters. You’re some kind of Japanese super-wrestling-hero, doing one on one matches against a bunch of crazy monsters.
The monsters are absolutely insane. Amazingly animated and each with their own large, unique sets of crazy attacks. Things get even crazier in the extra-long final level, which turns into a beat-em-up with regular enemies and multiple bosses, and has some crazy anime theme song music playing. Highly recommended.
Another classic Capcom beat-em-up. If you’ve played one of these, you’ve pretty much played them all, yet they’re still all so damn fun. Incredibly violent, packed full of nice and crunchy weapons to play with, and piles of nutty boss fights. Good times.
Basically a beat-em-up with guns, Aliens is a little clunky at times, but man they sure nailed those Alien creature designs, and there are a ton of wacky boss fights that are very reminiscent of Contra (which is ironic, since Contra was totally ripping off Alien in the first place). Not the best Alien-related arcade game, but still a fun classic.
Another excellent Sonic the Hedgehog game from olden times. Great music and level design. It does have its downsides though. Tails is pretty useless, unless you were trying to play that awful split screen co-op mode. He actually hurts more than he helps in the special stages. Boy, I forgot how ridiculously hard those levels got in this one. The final 2 special stages are just ridiculous, requiring you to get basically every single ring without taking a single hit or missing even part of a group of rings. You’d just have to keep playing these levels over and over again, trying to memorize everything and hoping that you got really lucky. Then for all your trouble getting all the chaos emeralds, you’re treated to two back-to-back extra hard boss fights where you have zero rings. Again, I have no idea how I used to be able to beat games like this as a kid.
An early Capcom game, Gunsmoke is a vertical-scrolling shooter with a cowboy theme. As usual with Capcom games, it has extremely catchy music, fun gameplay, and a high, but not impossible level of challenge. It’s not one of their “must play” titles, but it’s still a pretty solid classic that holds up reasonably well if you like this kind of game.
Even as a kid, I could never beat this one. I’ve always wanted to go back and finish it, but upon trying it again, I can see why I gave up back in the day. This is an incredibly sadistic game. It feels like they tried to mash Metal Gear and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together, and it uses a system that’s kind of similar to the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES game, where you can switch between three characters at any time, but if any of them die, they’re gone forever. This is tough enough to manage as it is, but the game also loves to throw a lot of instant death moments your way on a regular basis. Attack the wrong person in a public area? Dead. Walking in public when suddenly a car comes shooting out of nowhere and mows you down? Dead. Trying to get through one of the nasty sewer dungeons and go the wrong way, prompting a wall to move, pushing you into the water with no way to escape? Dead. I couldn’t even tell what it was I was supposed to be doing. I don’t know, maybe I’ll try again someday with a guide or something, but I just didn’t have the patience for it this time.
Time enough for one more Turtles game. Again, why play the port when you can play original. Another classic Konami beat-em-up. All these Turtle games are making me want to read the old comics or watch the crappy old cartoon again. TURTLES ON THE BRAIN!
A great lesser-known side-scrolling action game from Capcom. It has absolutely nothing to do with Street Fighter other than the main character being a guy named Ken who punches things. Ken is apparently a scientist and former street fighter champion, so I suppose it’s possible that he’s actually supposed to be Ken Masters, but the game never gets into that. No, you’re too busy trying to track down whoever killed your lab partner, stole your science experiment, and spread it around all over the galaxy to turn everyone into weird alien monsters. To do this you have to warp around to different alien worlds looking for infected creatures to beat up so you can warp to the next world, with the idea being that each warp is going to bring you closer to your final objective (somehow).
As was so often the case back then, this game was extremely tough. Not like Battletoads or Ghosts n’ Goblins tough, but still pretty difficult. You have a surprisingly large variety of attacks for having only two buttons to work with. Pressing attack while stationary and doing it while holding a direction or jumping all do different kinds of attacks and of course the game doesn’t explain any of this to you, so you need to figure out how to fight properly on your own and very quickly, as you’re immediately thrown into the action without a second to spare. This is also one of those games where you need to rush to find power-ups to increase your attack strength too, because you’re going to be too weak to beat the deadly creatures otherwise. Unfortunately, you also lose attack power every time you get hit, so you really need to git gud quick if you want to have a chance.
Anyway, there are a lot of interesting levels with a huge roster of crazy bosses to fight, and a great soundtrack. It’s one of my favorite NES classics even though I don’t remember 2010 being anything like this.
Silver Surfer is a shooter that rotates between side-scrolling and vertical scrolling. It’s one of those games that you always seem to see on those “Top 10 hardest NES games” lists, but again, I don’t think it’s THAT bad. Yes it’s tough. You die in one hit and lose all your attack strength power-ups when you do, but if you can just survive long enough to get your attack strength up then you start blasting through all the waves of enemies pretty quickly. There’s also a password system and a bunch of helpful cheats available, so it’s all very do-able.
As a kid, I appreciated that they included a lot of familiar faces from the Silver Surfer series of the 80’s, which made it feel a little like maybe the creators actually read the things, unlike most other early comic-based games. Once you really start playing it though, it was clear that they were just making this all up. I have no idea why I had to fight through some hell-like plane filled with angry flying pumpkins to get to Firelord and etc. The weirdest thing was when you finished all the main areas, Galactus sends you off to fight the final battle in the “Magik realm”, which is apparently ruled by…Mr. Sinister? Weird.
Probably the most noteworthy thing about this game though, is the music. The soundtrack was absolutely insane for an NES game. I like a lot of old-timey 8-bit music, but this one always stood out as being impressively complex and surprisingly metal for its time. Even if you never actually play this game, you should still check out the soundtrack. I dare you to listen to this song and not turn it up and want more.
This was one of those strange arcade classics that everyone loved to play, but no one could actually understand it or beat it. You beam into these alien infested ships and are told to wipe out the infestation, but it just doesn’t seem possible. You can run around blasting aliens like crazy, but you never seem to be able to get anywhere close to clearing them all out before time runs out and the ship self destructs, which teleports you out of the level and tells you you failed. The best outcome seems to be if you can find the self-destruct system and set it to go off early, which you would think would also be a loss, but instead congratulates you and gives you bonus points. I suppose the ideal victory would be to completely wipe the aliens out somehow, but this doesn’t seem to be possible by yourself. My best efforts only ever got them down to about 40%.
I suppose it doesn’t much matter in the long run, as this seems to be one of those good old endless games, like Gauntlet or Rampage, that just goes on and on and on until you run out of quarters and die. It’s still fun in short bursts though. This is one you really need to experience the original arcade version of too, as the NES version had to be one of the absolute worst arcade-to-home ports ever made. I mean I know the NES was very limited compared to arcade tech back then, but just look at how damn ugly it was.
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