Monday, April 7, 2014

Two Weeks Off

Last month, I completed my quest to review every NES game.

I've been holding up the site since then with random European/Japanese game reviews and my Best/Worst Games Lists, but I'll be honest: I was burnt out a month ago. Today, April 7th, I am crispy-fried and not to perfection.

It's not just the site. The busyness of my non-Internet life seemed to increase right around the time the quest finished. Combine personal stuff with wanting to keep the NES blog maintained, while creating a site for the upcoming, much larger blog and... yeah. I'm drained.

I'll be taking a two-week vacation from both the blogs and life starting today. When I get back, I'll be starting up exclusively on the new blog, which I will announce on on April 21st.

But what about all the review requests I received? Well, frankly, it doesn't seem like anybody reads or cares about those so I'm tempted to leave them behind altogether. That being said, I do have an idea to play and review the remaining requests in one enormous, all-consuming post. I might craft such a piece, I might not. If I do, the post will emerge during my vacation. Otherwise there will be no new material while I'm gone.

Thanks again for continuing to read/critique/champion the blog. Y'all the best.

Friday, April 4, 2014

By Request - New Ghostbusters II

                                             That's right, Egon's out in front.

                                    I find this game guilty... of being AWESOME!

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous



GENRE: Action


New Ghostbusters II is what most gamers desired/expected to see from a "Ghostbusters" game circa '89. Instead of mundane tasks like keeping the Ghostbuster mobile gassed and ready, or ascending staircases aplenty a la' the original Ghostbusters on NES, NGII provides straight ghost-busting action in its purest form. Choose from two of the four Ghostbusters – Ray, Egon, Peter, and Winston – and slide down the fire pole to destiny. Your first-choice Ghostbuster (I chose Peter) controls the Proton Beam with 'A," while the second-choice Ghostbuster (Egon) opens the Ghost Trap with 'B.' To successfully trap ghosts, you'll need to get used to hitting 'A' and 'B' at the same time (if you have a second player, they can control the second Ghostbuster). The button combo sounds potentially clunky, but to HAL's credit, trapping ghosts feels natural and effortless – as it should, since it's the entire game. Each of the five levels - from the Court Building to Peter's Apartment to the Sewer of Slime - is a series of rooms where you trap ghosts. Once you capture all the ghosts in the room, an arrow will appear showing you where you need to go. Continue to "not be 'fraid of no ghosts" until you get to the boss. All the hit players from the movie are here: the Scoleri Brothers! Janosz! Vigo the Carpathian! And, uh... Conductor Slimer? Well, he does look adorable in his conductor hat, so I'll let it slide. If you're a Ghostbusters fan – or even if you're just an NES buff looking for a solid beef injection of arcade game goodness – you need to check out New Ghostbusters II. It's not the deepest title, but it more than makes up for whatever those other two wannabe Ghostbusters games were trying to accomplish.

Why didn't America get New Ghostbusters II, you ask? According to Wikipedia (the master of knowing things), there were licensing issues with Activision. Activision published the first two terrible Ghostbusters NES games in America, and thus (I'm assuming), put the kibosh on HAL's attempt at righting their wrongs. Then again, a simplified version of NGII was released as Ghostbusters II for the Game Boy here in America, developed by HAL and published... by Activision?! I don't even know. In summary, we was robbed. But thanks to the Internet, we can gorge on whichever Ghostbusters feast we choose.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The 86 Worst NES Games: #s 25-1




                                                   #25 – AFTER BURNER

Just when you thought it was safe to play Sega's After Burner on your NES, the licensing gods cursed every illegally produced cartridge, making the result thoroughly unplayable. Controls barely work, the game's POV is nausea-inducing, and the on-screen action is nearly indiscernible. Even before Genesis did what Nintendidn't, Sega and Nintendo refused to play well together.

                                                     #24 – STUNT KIDS

Playing Stunt Kids is like careening down a sidewalk of broken dreams. There are no stunts in the game – unless you consider staying balanced on one's bike a stunt. It's amazing that these kids ever qualified to race on obstacle courses, given their penchant for falling down. Stunt Kids had potential (the obstacle course designs are pretty neat), but there's little use in trying to make these kids stunt or much of anything.

                                                   #23 – DEADLY TOWERS

The so-called "worst NES game of all time" might not be as bad as they say, but it's still in the "top" 25 so I wouldn't call it "good," either. Offenses include: overly strong enemies, laughably bad hit detection, poor sense of direction, among other things. Deadly Towers is a frustrating reminder of how not to rip off Legend of Zelda

                                                   #22 – HUDSON HAWK

Bruce Willis and "friends" (i.e. movie studio executives) really thought "Hudson Hawk" was going to be a hit, didn't they? I mean, they commissioned a really bad Nintendo game out of it. That's what all the other top film franchises of the '80s and '90s did! Hudson Hawk's difficulty (unplayability) stems only from the character's poor jumping abilities. If he could jump higher than a couple inches off the ground, you might not be reading this blurb right now.

                                                    #21 – HYDLIDE

Hydlide was a flawed, but interesting game when it first released in 1984 for Japanese computers. Many of the mechanics it introduced, however, were downright primitive by the time of its NES re-release in '89. Dragon Warrior and The Legend of Zelda in particular refined Hydlide's grueling combat system and password save features. Today, Hydlide is go-nowhere grindfest – a shame, given the game's innovations.

                                                 #20 – LAST ACTION HERO

From the review: "First mistake: Arnold can't punch someone without taking at least one hit. Ever. Since the enemies constantly regenerate and come at you or are located where you can't hit them in the level, your lives will go down like so many shattered pelvises. I'd honestly be surprised if this game was beatable without a Game Genie. It's just that cheap." 

                                                      #19 – RAID 2020

A creepy protagonist in a trench coat who doesn't move in the direction you want him to go; empty levels that won't complete until you go through them several times; enemies that refuse to die; guns that refuse to fire at a normal rate. Raid 2020: A Color Dreams Joint.

                                               #18 – DESTINATION EARTHSTAR

Like Star Voyager, Destination Earthstar gives the appareance of depth via convoluted gameplay. Take a look at that screenshot: it's possible to know what's happening in the map, but even when you do, that doesn't make the markers any less ridiculous. And when you run out of ammo (despite the fact that you're a fully equipped space craft), make sure to take an aggravated selfie and post it in the comments section; for posterity and my own amusement.

                                        #17 – ULTIMA: WARRIORS OF DESTINY

Warriors of Destiny is one of the slowest, choppiest games I've ever been forced to play. Imagine you're behind someone driving fifteen miles-per-hour in a sixty mph zone; that "someone" is your in-game party. The menu replacing commands (like 'Talk,' 'Open,' etc) with symbols annoyed me too, but mostly, it's the game's lack of speed. If you want to discover how much patience and perseverance you really have, give Warriors of Destiny a try.

                                                    #16 – ROBODEMONS

Robodemons is an unlicensed Ghosts 'N Goblins ripoff created by a company that had no business making games of any sort. The aggressive difficulty stems from the main character's underpowered boomerang weapon and overabundance of enemies. The character/level designs are tacky, the controls are all over the place, and the gameplay consists of absorbing the hatred of the so-called Robodemons. I fold.

                                                #15 – TOP PLAYERS' TENNIS

The only tennis game on the NES where you don't play tennis. Oh, you may prepare for a game of tennis. You may get excited by the four-player option, the silly Miracle shots, the ahead-of-its-time create-a-character feature. Once you realize you're simply unable to serve the ball over the net at all, you'll question whether Top Players Tennis involves tennis, gameplay, or anything besides Chris Evert and Ivan Lendl's misguided sponsorship.

                                                 #14 – ROLLERBLADE RACER

More like LOLlerblade Racer, am I right, friends? Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am right. When you can achieve the main goal of the game (to collect 5000 points) in the first stage, but the game forces you to complete every stage thereafter, something's wrong. Rollerblade Racer feels like some poor game developer's lost bet.

                                                  #13 – GHOSTBUSTERS

Ghostbusters makes everything a chore. Want to drive across town? Don't run out of gas and be forced to start at the beginning. Need to capture a ghost? You have a small window of time to do it, and the ghosts are insanely difficult to capture. Want to ascend Gozer's Tower? Prepare to climb dozens (yes, dozens) of staircases very slowly while ghosts suck the life out of you. I ain't 'fraid of no ghosts, but I will forever keep my distance from Ghostbusters.

                                          #12 – OPERATION SECRET STORM

Operation Secret Storm is a gritty sandstorm to the face of justice. Unbalanced controls, erratic enemies, pathetic hit detection equal a triple play of poor game design, and that's just the tip. It is, without a doubt, the worst Color Dreams game ever made. Low praise indeed.

                                                      #11 – SPELUNKER

From the review: "Spelunker descends into levels via elevator. Scattered across the cave are pulleys, ropes, and stairs to bring you to high places. Jump too high off of any of these platforms, and Spelunker keels over dead. Other ways to kill Spelunker: falling into a hole, standing too close to a bomb, hitting the top of certain ceilings, being touched by a ghost... Spelunker should be a hearty cave explorer, not a 120-year-old with brittle bones. Also, three lives and you're dead, no continues, no concessions. No thanks. A distinct gaming premise ruined by poor mechanics."


Chaos beyond control. The five Muppet-driven mini games in Muppet Adventure are enough to make a grown man cry-y, particularly Grover's "Lost in Space Ride," Animal's "Crash Car Course," Kermit's "Raging River Ride," Fozzy's "The Amazing Ice Cream Maze," and Kermit's "Moon Mishaps." Wait, that's all of them? Consider my cheeks soaked! 


In Rocky and Bullwinkle, you're forced to use your special move to kill enemies – any enemies. If you run out of your special move, you absorb the enemies' hits. Can't avoid 'em, can't hit 'em, even though Bullwinkle has horns that could easily penetrate through one's solar plexus without too much trouble. Also, I loathe this game's graphics, feel, all-around existence. Go suck a lemon, Rocky, Bullwinkle, and friends.

                                                     #8 – CIRCUS CAPER

Circus Caper combines several things I hate into one evil-soaked platformer: circuses, clowns, knee socks and the children who wear them. Mostly, I can't handle the clunky controls, abhorrent hit detection, and the one-life-and-it's-game-over madness. When progression feels like more trouble than it's worth, it's time to abort the caper.

                                              #7 – THE LAST STARFIGHTER

From the review: "...because of the lack of things to shoot, the wonky controls, the horrible placement of your ship in the center of the screen, and the huge amounts of luck that it would take to actually beat the game (let alone progress past the first level) The Last Starfighter is less a shmup than a malevolent entity bent on causing human beings pain and suffering. And I'm not a man given to hyperbolic statements or long Faulknerian sentences."

                                             #6 – THE GREAT WALDO SEARCH

"Man, Waldo's just not trying anymore." With these words, Bart Simpson inadvertently summed up The Great Waldo Search. Waldo is almost always out in plain sight in the game's five levels. Find him and a scroll in each level and the game's over. FINAL PLAY TIME: Ten minutes. I generally agree with the adage "Quality over quantity," but when there's hardly any content to begin with, it becomes a moot point. The Great Waldo Search is a pathetic excuse of a virtual Waldo book.

                                                       #5 – HOME ALONE

In Home Alone, the goal is to trap Harry and Marv consistently for twenty minutes. Succeed and the cops come to pick them up. Fail and the game is over. So... if you succeed, you have a twenty minute long game with zero replay value. Want to play just for the heck of it? Harry and Marv are difficult to trap, and the limited one-screen gameplay seems more suited to an arcade experience than a home console game. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.

                                                      #4 – CASTELIAN

One does not "play" Castelian: one endures it. You'll need the patience of a thousand monks to wrestle your frog up tower stairs without a) getting repeatedly hit by enemies, causing you to fall down a level; or b) falling down the tower because you miscalculated/missed a jump. Castelian controls you, hombre.

                                               #3 – THE UNCANNY X-MEN

From the review: "X-Men has its obvious terrible qualities - chunky Atari graphics, melody-deprived music, tedious button-mashing gameplay – but these aren't what make the game stand apart from other bad NES titles. No, X-Men is so much worse than the sum of its parts. Playing it, one gets the sense that LJN exerted great effort in making this game as horrible as possible. This is no slapdash effort. It takes long man-hours and rolled-up sleeves to make a game this foul. But the most confounding aspect of X-Men isn't how bad it is: it's that the game understands and revels in its badness." Indeed it's Uncanny X-Men's lack of shame that gives it such torturous powers.

                                                    #2 – DRAGON'S LAIR

Dragon's Lair is the only game I've ever played where I couldn't move past the first screen, and not for lack of trying. Dirk the Daring can handle numerous bats plowing into his face, but he can't jump onto a drawbridge without disintegrating?! Despite being a knight, he uses daggers instead of that big honkin' sword on his back?! Embracing death – not saving Daphne – is Dirk's call in life. Dragon's Lair is death in cartridge form.

                                                      #1 – ACTION 52

When I first reviewed the unholy behemoth named Action 52, I played every single body-crumpling, brain-stomping game. Some games were merely bad. Others didn't work past the title screen. Others were impossible to progress beyond the first level, due to the game's love affair with glitches. Action 52 isn't just one all-encompassing bad game: it's fifty-two sorta, kinda, almost, barely games, compiled for the player's infinite bemusement. Think of any attribute of a poorly developed title – busted controls, go-nowhere progression, lazy level design, squalid graphics – then apply them liberally across Action 52's coding. Such waste! Active Enterprises then had the gall to charge two hundred American dollars upon its release, as if these so-called game-like substances were worth less than four dollars a piece. Action 52 isn't worth the brief time it takes to illegally download it, let alone physical currency. I urge those of you who haven't played Action 52 to leave it be. Don't seek it out. Repress your curiosity. If a cartridge could destroy worlds, it would be Action 52 and it would destroy yours without hesitation. It is the worst NES game (s) of all time.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The 86 Worst NES Games: #s 50-26



                                #50 – MENACE BEACH/SUNDAY FUNDAY: THE RIDE

Menace Beach was released three times throughout the NES' lifespan: once in a multi-cart, once by itself, and once as a re-skin called Sunday Funday. Color Dreams/Wisdom Tree must have assumed that kids really loved sloppy skateboarding, nonsensical hit detection, and, er, getting to Sunday School on time.

                                                      #49 – HOOK

From the review: "One more reason not to play Hook: you have a dagger, but it does no damage to enemies. The game wouldn't pose a challenge at all if you could use your weapon, but because you're forced to jump over and around enemies, you'll be dying quite a bit. Truthfully, I've always wondered if Peter Pan could die. Hook answers that question with a resounding, "Yes, thank God."' 

                                          #48 – TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY

Terminator 2 takes the best set pieces of the film and turns them into laborious collect-a-thons. Also, I'm pretty sure it would only take one cold terminating punch from Arnold to land you on your fleshy buttocks. In the game, it takes an average six hits before a common thug goes down, let alone bosses. It's enough to make the steam rise from your overworked exoskeleton.

                                      #47 – IKARI WARRIORS II: VICTORY ROAD

Ikari Warriors II enlarges the Paul and Vince sprites, which somehow makes them punier than the first game? From start to finish, the enemies are your virtual betters in every way. Die, die, die, my Ikari darlings. You have one life, no continues – unless you choose to input a code that lets you respawn right where you left off. About as victorious as a deflated pectoral.

                                                #46 – CASTLE OF DECEIT

Constantly regenerating too-strong enemies, poor enemy AI with no set movement pattern, bass-ackwards controls ('B' is jump because Castle of Deceit is a unique butterfly), stupid main character design (fuchsia pajamas? Yuck city). At least the main cover is cool. Deceiving, but cool nonetheless.

                                            #45 – KING NEPTUNE'S ADVENTURE

And the Color Dreams train rolls on. King Neptune's Adventure is a non-linear underwater suck-scursion. Enemies appear out of nowhere on top of Neptune. I know the control is probably supposed to be floaty, but boy, is it floaty. Weapons are limited to the point of insanity. Where's my infinite supply of tridents!

                                                   #44 – WAYNE'S WORLD

Play as Wayne and Garth in this curious creation loosely based on... the film? That doesn't explain the living musical instrument enemies. Nor does it explain why Wayne and Garth share a life bar. Or why Wayne's karate kick is one of the worst attacks in the history of video games. A most excellent bummer. 

                            #43 – INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (UBISOFT)

From the review: "Simply put, The Last Crusade (1993 Remix) is nigh unplayable. It's not that the controls are bad. In fact, the controls are a marked improvement over the original Last Crusade. No, what ravages this particular game are the monochromatic, bleached graphics; the cheap shots the enemies take; the lunging backwards every time Indy gets hit; the 'there for no reason' uber-short time limit; the too-low life bar; the boring, meandering levels; the overblown character model for Indy himself; the way life depletes as you're falling through the air."

Yup, that'll do. 

                                            #42 – AD&D: POOL OF RADIANCE

Back in the early days of my quest, I would give a game an 'F' if it looked at me funny. Pool of Radiance gave me the all-encompassing stink eye. Drab, similar-looking environments left me cold. "That's it?" you say. Well, yeah. I was impatient, reckless, foolish – but I could also tell a bad game from a good one. This game... it's not my kinda game.

                                                     #41 – STAR WARS

I don't care what quadrant of the galaxy you're from: Star Wars is a wobbling pile of Bantha dung. Why all the weak weaponry, mediocre level design, unclear objectives? And why is Boba Fett the most powerful boss in existence? He spews orbs out of every pore! Porbs, I tell you! PORBS!

                                                      #40 – DARKMAN

I know Darkman isn't supposed to be the most powerful superhero of all time, but surely he can use his dukes, right? Any Joe Six-Pack can put one fist in front of the other to knock out some unassuming truckers. Should you figure out how to lift Darkman's fists, a generic licensed piece of garbage is your reward.

                                                   #39 – BATTLE CHESS

A game of chess usually takes a fair amount of time; particularly if you're playing against an opponent who knows what they're doing. Battle Chess is the slowest chess game in existence. The. Slowest. You will have thought five moves ahead before the computer can move their first pawn or knight. An embarrassment to the most regal of games.

                                          #38 – WAYNE GRETZKY HOCKEY

Before Bethesda was rolling in Elder Scrolls gold, they paid the rent through an unholy union with THQ. Wanye Gretzky Hockey was one of the results of said union, an unpolished clusterfluff of a hockey game. Your team's sprites, the other team's sprites – who knows? Too much flickering, too many pixels. Not even The Great One himself knows what's happening. 

                                  #37 – SECRET SCOUT IN THE TEMPLE OF DEMISE

Secret Scout fights for Troop #374. He'll fight whoever comes across his path in the Temple of Demise: '80s loan sharks, the Mafia, ancient Biblical tribes like the Ammonites or the Hittites. Secret Scout has spirit, but his main weapon - a kick - not-so-secretly sucks. When your enemies are packin' spears, arrows, and bullets, it's best to run away. Scout's honor.

                                                       #36 – SUPERMAN

I'm beginning to see a trend with bad superhero games: limit the hero's powers (not even a super punch is effective), make them vulnerable to anything (including, according to the review, a mobster's coattails), and see how long the player waits to break the game in half. Unless the game code is covered in kryptonite, there's no excuse for how weak Superman is.

                                                      #35 – COOL WORLD

"Cool World": Brad Pitt's hunkiest hour or Ralph Bakshi nonsense? I'd personally choose the latter, though I'd rather watch the film with my eyes held open a la´ "Clockwork Orange" than play another five minutes of the game adaptation. Squirrels in fedoras with tommyguns are cool and all, but ambiguous objectives and unending bullet barrages wear on the ol' psyche.

                                                      #34 – DEATHBOTS

Deathbots is aptly named: in the game, there are numerous bringer-of-death bots. Their shots are hard to avoid, they run into you kamikaze-style, and their numbers are legion compared to your blue-suited space doofus. A hedonistic, maddening free-for-all. 

                                                    #33 – STAR VOYAGER

Star Voyager amounts to little more than Asteroids with obtuse window dressing. Just look at that screenshot: you'd think SV was a Koei sim in space, but it isn't. Warp somewhere, wait for enemies, keep waiting for enemies, shoot the enemies, then wish you were playing a slightly more fulfilling game – like Deathbots.

                                                       #32 – MAD MAX

We're approaching the nearly unplayable games now; games so broken, so pointless, so tortured in their existence, their only source of pleasure lies in abusing the player. Mad Max rends the player in twain with its meaninglessness, busted control, and repetitive stages. 

                                                      #31 – CONAN

From the review: "Graphics, music, control – Conan has 'em all, though none of them perform their required duties. Conan's world, the enemies, and Conan himself all look like they were fashioned out of silly putty; not the good, authentic Silly Putty, but the dollar store kind that was fashioned out of disintegrated brick scraps from abandoned buildings." Also, because jump is assigned to 'Up' and 'Down' and 'A' or 'B,' attacks and jumps often get intermingled. Conan is a cornucopia of crap.

                                            #30 – TABOO:THE SIXTH SENSE

Taboo isn't even a game, so what is it doing on this list of worst NES games? Well, it's the worst fake tarot card reader that's ever purported to be a game so I'm counting it. Even if you believe in this stuff, you won't be engaging Taboo to figure out what your next step in life should be. That's what the daily horoscope is for!

                                                #29 – DAY DREAMIN' DAVEY

Day Dreamin' Davey has one of the worst concepts ever to befoul consoles. Kids entering their daydreams? Sure, I can get on board with that. But a kid falling asleep whenever he gets harassed by bullies, teachers, society? That's just odd, particularly for a game that's ostensibly set in the "real world." And why does Davey have to look and act like such a tool? Even in his dreams, I felt like I was lowering myself by playing as him. Maybe that reads harsh, but when the game portrays their main character as a narcoleptic loser, it's difficult to think otherwise. 

                                   #28 – BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

Bill & Ted's plops Bill (or Ted) in the middle of a field with no direction. People swarm the surroundings. You need to talk to them, but when you do, you'll either get your money stolen, thrown in jail, or given useless information. Why does everyone want to hurt Bill and Ted? What is their purpose in this game? Bill and Ted can jump, but they can barely walk (a commentary on their drug abuse?). There's a mini-game where you have to guide circuits between phone lines. LJN, I just, I don't even-

                                                           #27 – 720°

One of the worst skateboarding games of all time. When jumping and landing on your skateboard is impossible, you know you'll never bust out a 360 kick-flip and live to tell the tale. Off-time music, scrawled graphics, and a bitter-beer face is all 720 has to offer shred-heads.

                                           #26 – AD&D: HEROES OF THE LANCE

Too high of a number for this infamous atrocity? Yeah, maybe. Heroes of the Lance is considered by many to be one of the worst NES games of all time. Imagine playing a PC game haphazardly ported to an NES. The controls don't work (no really, they don't), the graphics are offensive to the eyes, switching between the game's eight characters is cumbersome, the magic system brings the game to a halt. Just think: there are twenty-five more games worse than Heroes. God help us.
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The Quest to Review Every Nes Game by Dylan Cornelius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.