Many of us have Nintendo games that have never been conquered. These Nintendo games have sat in closets, storage boxes, attics, or basements, and their ending screens have never been displayed. The poor heroes of these games live in worlds where evil villains rule, since no one has ever defeated them. Several years ago, I revisited my old games I have never beaten, and made it my mission to kick some bad guy tail. Some of these stories may sound like it took one mere play that left me victorious, but in reality, most of them involved a number of nights in front of the NES.


Gradius

I received Gradius as a Christmas present the same year it was released. While it was fun, I could never get incredibly far in the game. I was able to turn this around with the help of 2 aids. One was a NES Advantage controller which had a very handy slow motion button. The other was the Konami code, the one that starts with up, up, down, down (you fill in the rest). It didn’t give you 30 lives like in Contra, but instead it maxed out your weapons. Now you could unleash fury on any enemies that dared to come challenge you. I cheated to win, and I remembered this for years.





Fast forward to the year 2001. I was in the mood to play some of my old NES games. I wanted to conquer some of the forgotten games that had always been too tough for me to handle. I popped in Gradius, and began shooting at everything, using only a standard controller, and not putting in any code. I powered up my ship to full weapons, and did it legitimately. Once I was powered up, I was on a roll. Somehow I was evading countless enemy bullets with a few hitting my shields. I walked through many of the stages, something I had not done before, and was on the last level. I finally bit the dust. Miserably, I began my next life with a dinky gun that I hadn’t used since the first level. After some very close calls, I made it past the level, and defeated the game! It was a victory that wasn’t realized for well over a decade. I was very excited to put it lightly.







Double Dragon

Double Dragon came next. I was full of determination, whether it took me one night, or weeks. In the past, I had been able to get up to Willy, the machine gun shooting psychopath. But his gun versus my fists had always been a losing battle. I didn’t have too much trouble getting to him. The only part that gave me difficulty was on the last level, where there are booby-trapped stone walls. The blocks on these walls shoot out at you as you try to walk in front of them. They knock out quite a bit of your health every time they hit you. After a lost life or two, I finally got past them (if you are lucky, you’ll get hit while you are jumping, and your body gets knocked closer to the end of the wall).





Now that I think about it, even though I had gotten to him in the past, it was really only a couple times. I was finally in Willy’s chamber, and was ready to fight. He doesn’t like to face you if he doesn’t have to though, so he’ll send his goons out to meet you first. And then he’ll send more goons, and more goons, and after I disposed of all of them, he took matters into his own hands. I believe I went for the technique of corner him and feed him elbows. The elbow in Double Dragon is a pretty powerful weapon, and I used it to take him down. After that, I was home free. Again, a thrilling feeling, conquering a game that had the upper hand on me for so many years.







Gunsmoke

Gunsmoke is a game that I didn’t own as a kid. Instead, it was available for rent at a local gas station, which had a very small library of games. I suppose I wouldn’t have ever played it, if the gas station’s collection had more to choose from. For years I had remembered this fun game from my past, and it was another that I was not able to play all the way through. This was probably due to two reasons. First, after the short time that I had the rental, rather than renting it again to proceed further into the game, I’d opt for renting another one of the available games. Second, the game’s difficulty is fairly high, as they throw plenty of enemies your way, just like in Gradius.





One year, I saw a collection of games for sale online, and I bought it. Gunsmoke was one of the games purchased. I started the game up, and even though it didn’t provide as much fun as I remembered, I was still enjoying it, and now that I had plenty of time, I was ready to play this game all the way through. I couldn’t remember how far I had gotten previously, but I was definitely seeing new territory towards the end. When you are riding a horse, you are free to get shot a few times without dying, and I held on to my horse for as long as possible on that last level. I found myself face to face with the last boss, and finally took him down for a sweet win.







Jackal

Jackal falls into the same category as Gunsmoke. I rented this game from the same gas station, and it was one that went unbeaten for a long time. I bought this game, since it was so fun, and it’s got a great two player mode. I like how this game gives an overall map screen between levels, so you can get a glimpse of the terrain yet to come, and how far you’ve progressed.





I’m quite sure I had previously made it to the last boss, but when it ended my game, the last thing I felt like doing was starting back at the beginning. This time though, it was different. With all that practice of bullet dodging from GunSmoke and Gradius, it definitely gave me the upper hand in Jackal. I’d actually rate the challenge level a little lower than those other 2, so it made it seem that much easier. After defeating the huge enemy fortress, which I was stuck on before, there was still a giant tank left to beat. A tough battle, but one I walked away from.







Ninja Gaiden

Now here’s a game that I so desperately wanted to win, but I could never get by the second form of the last boss, Jaquio. Normally, when an enemy launches projectiles at you, they remain on a straight path, and can easily be dodged. When Jaquio launches his fire at you though, it curves at you, like homing missiles. I just couldn’t handle jumping around that room, constantly dodging fire while trying to swing my sword at him. Then they throw a double edged sword at you. If you are defeated, you can continue as many times as you want, but if you die while fighting Jaquio, they make you start a couple levels back. It doesn’t seem that bad, but I just hated the thought of progressing through a very difficult part of the game over and over just to get to an enemy that would surely destroy me again.





Here comes the man on a mission. I came across a Ninja Gaiden faq online, and I read about a different technique that might help me slaughter the all powerful Jaquio. I fought through all the levels, like I had always done when I was a kid, but now I had a new weapon to try. There is a powerup called the Jump & Slash, where your guy will somersault through the air while slashing with his sword. It not only dishes out tons of damage, but your character is temporarily invincible while doing it. The only tricky thing is that if you pick up a different powerup, your Jump & Slash is gone. I got to the last level, found my Jump & Slash, and passed by many tempting power ups on my way to Jaquio. When I took on his second form, I used the powerup, and I was amazed. His energy was half gone with just one use! I used it again, and sent away the demon that never let me pass. I kept using the Jump & Slash technique on the next boss, and won the game. What a great feeling to finally put that game to rest.







Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I don’t remember anymore if I was introduced to TMNT by way of rental, or through a temporary trade from a friend. Either way, I found this game to be quite difficult. I couldn’t make it very far at all, but as I played and played, I gained a little ground here and there, and eventually made it probably 3/4 of the way through the levels. Years passed, and somewhere along the way the game was purchased. Either my gaming skills had improved, or I had just remembered how to get through the beginning levels after all that time.





I eventually made it through to the final level, which I know I had not entered before. I was stocked up on scrolls, which is a very superior weapon in the game. I just blasted enemy after enemy all the way through and eventually found the Shredder. I hadn’t seen him before, and he was pretty cool looking. Luckily, the first time I entered his room I was able to defeat him. I was probably luckier than I could have been, but he didn’t seem to offer as much challenge as I expected. Again, it felt like such a great accomplishment, and I was very happy to finally view the ending.







There’s nothing like destroying a boss, or finishing a level that has gotten the best of you years ago. I recommend trying out an old game that had you mere inches away from victory, and giving it another go. It might not happen on the first play-through, but try sticking with it. Being an older gamer, you’ll find it’s easier to stay committed, and once you have defeated your old arch nemesis, the feeling you get might even persuade you to try it out with another one.