This is the second installment of my memories and thoughts on some of the important NES games of my childhood. I'm trying to think a little outside the box with these lists. By that I mean that I am trying to think of important games in my childhood that aren't necessarily the norm and on a bunch of "best of" NES lists. Some of these are somewhat obscure, some are mainstream and they all had an impact on me for good or bad. Some are really good games and some are completely awful, but I think that is what makes them charming. Sometimes it's not only the good games that make an impact but the bad ones too. The last article seemed to go over well, so I decided on a sequel. Just like last time these are in no particular order. It's more of a stream of consciousness type of list.
This game has always been a lot of fun to me. The obvious premise is pretty simple, you pick your WWF wrestler and make your way through the bracket to claim the WWF championship. I was a huge WWF fan back in the day and I remember knowing so many of the wrestlers that I was upset that they were not included in the game. Guys like Junkyard Dog, Ricky The Dragon Steamboat and Rowdy Roddy Piper to name a few. The game's music was pretty good too. Acclaim, the company that made the game, always had pretty solid music throughout their library of titles. I always loved how they incorporated the themes of each wrestler. The only issue I ever had was how odd the character sprites looked in the game. For some reason they hunch over while they are walking like they are nine months pregnant.
Of course this game spawned tons of WWF and/or WWE titles later on. Still one of my favorite N64 games is the WCW/NWO World Tour which is not the WWF but by that time most of the WWF stars that I grew up with had defected to the WCW. Of course it also spawned the Wrestlemania arcade game which is arguably the best wrestling game ever.
Back to the Future
I want to hurt this game. Screw you LJN. You ruined Christmas in 1989. If you read my previous article about formative games, you may recall me talking about playing Clash at Demonhead on the Christmas Eve before I got this piece of junk on Christmas. First off, Clash at Demonhead is a much better game. This is an awful, awful piece of crap. It's really no wonder that LJN had a hand in almost every single awful NES game: X-Men, Friday the 13th, Wolverine, etc. The game is so bad. You literally walk from one end of the street to the other trying to dodge bees, manhole covers and random guys carrying a mirror and collecting clocks all before the picture of you and your brother and sister fades out from the bottom of the screen. Yeah, NES gold all the way. The music is bad, the graphics are bad, and the game is ludicrously hard. All things considered, the Angry Video Game Nerd sums it up better than I could. Most of you have heard of him, but if you haven't, youtube him.
This was a game that I had to have for Christmas. Why? Because I was an idiot and never rented or tried the game out before asking for it. I just went in blind because the movie was great therefore the game would HAVE to be great! Right? I still remember that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach after all the presents were opened and trying this game out. My Mom was always great about fixing a big breakfast after we opened Christmas presents and we would use that time while she was cooking to play our new games. I popped this game in my NES and started it up and started playing. It's always tough when you are a kid to convince yourself that you just made a really dumb decision that you are stuck with. Just a minute or so into the game, I began to slowly accept that I had just received and awful game. I tried to make the best of it, but instead before the day was out, I went back to my rented copy of Clash at Demonhead. I still own the cart, but I can't say many fond memories are associated with it.
When I was a kid, I was a huge kaiju fan before I even knew what the hell that was. King Kong, Godzilla, couldn't get enough of them. I wore out my King Kong vs. Godzilla VHS. This is yet another arcade port from Data East. I loved arcade ports, the only problem was that you always expected an exact replica of what you played in the arcade and that was just never going to happen. The other disappointment I had with this game was that the giant werewolf was not in it. George the gorilla and Lizzy the lizard were, but not Ralph the werewolf. The premise of the game is simple, go through major cities and pulverize the buildings and move on to the next level. The game was easy in that you could die and just continue right where you left off so the challenge wasn't in the gameplay, the challenge was in the amount of time you want to marathon the game.
This was a game that I bought with my own money. Spent a lot of time doing chores around the house to finally get enough money to buy it. Even used Wal Mart layaway to get it. I always enjoyed it quite a bit, even though the music sounded really muffled and boring. One night, I had friends of mine over and we decided we were going to beat Rampage. Again, there was really no skill involved, you just jump on buildings, punch them til they fall and move on to the next city. But this took a LONG time. Especially for such a repetitive game. I remember it being somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe two hours or so. We finally beat it and were treated to the lamest ending screen ever for our troubles.
Wow, thanks. Fun game though. Good for an easy game to play through while you listened to music. But save points would have been nice.
T&C Surf Designs Wood and Water Rage
First off, this game is either really hard or I really suck at it. Not sure which. Secondly, I actually never owned this game but a good friend of mine did and we played it a lot and I remember wanting to borrow it from him a lot. You can either surf or skateboard in this game and both were pretty tough for me. Especially the surfing was damn near impossible.
For some reason, I used to always equate this game with a sense of maturity. My friend's brother would rarely let us play it when he first got it because he used to tell us is was for older kids only and that we wouldn't understand it. Apparently, there is some sort of subliminal message to a gorilla surfing that we were just too dull and young to understand. This was not a great game but the graphics weren't too bad and the music was kinda cool. LJN made it, so the fact that is even playable is somewhat surprising.
This game was a nasty rip off of Life Force. Very hard too. Milton Bradley made it which was one of the few NES games they produced. Most of my fellow RJers know Milton Bradley as primarily a toy manufacturer that was responsible for a lot of the board games and action figures we owned as kids. The only NES games that I recall from them was this and Marble Madness. I'm sure there is more though. You battle your way through the inside of an alien shooting and destroying every vital organ on your way to finishing off the alien parasite that threatens your world.
I always enjoyed how the game would switch from a side scrolling view in some levels to an overhead view in others. Kinda similar to what the Adventure of Link did with the overworld and battle screens. This was a game as a kid I wasn't very interested in, but as a subscriber of Nintendo Power, I found an invincibility code and wanted to beat it. Anytime I could find a game that would let me easily blow through it, I was on board. I ended up really loving the game and especially the music and environments. Not bad at all for a rip off of Life Force. When our local video rental store went out of business, I picked this game up and still have it to this day.
Frankenstein: The Monster Returns
Another very hard game but one that I absolutely loved. The Frankenstein monster captures your girl, you go to rescue her. Pretty standard stuff. This game is very very hard from the get go. It's one of those games that if you beat the first level you feel pretty accomplished. It reminds me of a cross between Castlevania and Battle for Olympus. The thing that really stood out to me in this game was the boss fights. They were big and a lot of them were very much in the vein of Castlevania.
From the title screen to the coo, cutscenes, I always considered this game a hidden gem. Again, the difficulty is steep but it's a really fun game and the graphics are not bad. The game came out right around the time the Super Nintendo was being released so it is somewhat forgotten. I rented this game on Halloween of all holidays and I remember coming home from trick or treating and having my candy dumped on the ground next to me as I played this game munching on mini Reese's and Snickers. To this day, I play this game and can taste the Halloween candy.
Adventures in the Magic Kingdom
I have always been a huge fan of Disney and especially the Disney parks so when I saw this game at my local rental store I snatched it up. This game is in my top 10 or 15 NES games of all time. First off it's a Disney and Capcom pairing and that usually is a stamp of quality right there. Your goal is to go throughout the Magic Kingdom and collect keys to open the gates so Mickey can begin the parade. You go through each attraction in any order you want. It's not only a ton of fun and the graphics are outstanding, but it isn't very hard so that made it even better for me. My personal favorite levels were the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
This is a must play game for any Disney fan. Especially living in the middle of America, I couldn't make it to any of the Disney parks very often. In fact between the Magic Kingdom in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, I think we went once to each during my childhood. I've been much more as an adult now but at the time this was a perfect escape to the Disney parks. Great game.
Another game that I don't hear talked about a whole lot but I think is an underplayed gem. It was actually based on a Japanese film called Mr. Vampire. You fight through different towns that are being overrun by phantoms and you can use several items to help you through your quest. Very cool layouts of each town always made this game memorable as well as a unique set of controls that felt really tight and responsive for the NES.
This game reminds me of pain. Most of my life I have been pretty asthmatic and allergic. I still played a ton of sports and was outside a good bit but my asthma kept getting worse. So my doctor told my Mom that he wanted to do some blood work to get a better idea of what medicine to use and how to control my asthma better. So we had to go do a blood test. My Mom told me that we could rent a game if I went through with it (Mom is a great saleswoman) I said OK and before we went to the doctor's office, I picked this game up. Now in my 9 year old mind I was thinking that the blood test was going to be a small prick of a finger and it would be all over until I saw the doctor come at me with a syringe. Now I can get my blood taken and it's not an issue but at the time, I thought the pain was more than I could bear. With my arm wrapped up in a bandage and the tears drying on my cheeks, I spent the rest of my day playing this game. Geez, what a candy ass I was.
Bugs Bunny in the Crazy Castle
A fun little puzzle game. You go through each stage screen and collect all the carrots in the room and proceed to the next screen. Very much like an older NES game. You can't attack but you can pick up weapons like throwing a boxing glove or dropping a safe on the heads of your enemies. Plus, it gives you a code after each stage so you can always pick up where you left off.
Lot of fun, played this game a ton. I've always appreciated how this game would give you a code because it took a lot of time and several deaths to get through each stage. But it was always fair. The only issue is the controls can be a little slippery. Sometimes Bugs goes a few extra steps even if you let off the control pad. Other than that, i loved this game and tried each subsequent sequel or spin off but none of them did it for me like this game did.
Adventures of Lolo
This is another fun little puzzle game. You advance through each screen trying to collect all the hearts so that you can open the rooms treasure chest. This is a unique puzzle game in that it actually has boss fights that can be pretty tricky. So you not only have to use your brain but also a decent amount of skill to get through this game.
This was the first game I ever played through emulation. I was attending college at Oklahoma State (Go Cowboys) and my dorm roommate kept telling me all semester how he knew how to get all the NES games in the world on my laptop. I never believed him until dead week. We made it our mission. We downloaded a ridiculous amount of ROMs, put them on our computers and got drunk. Adventures of Lolo must have been at the top of the list because we played it all night while drinking Natty Lite. Ah college...
Believe it or not, this is the first RPG I ever played. It was mostly by mistake. More on that in a bit. The graphics for this game I always felt were very good. You play as Faxanadu, a wanderer who comes back to find your village has been ransacked by dwarves. It's almost like an RPG as well as a medieval mystery. You have to go throughout the world and find the cause for this disturbance. Of course the scope ends up affecting the world and you have to destroy the one responsible.
When I was a kid, I was intimidated by the Legend of Zelda. I thought it just looked way too hard and complex for me. So for a long time, I never played the game. I would watch my friends play it, but it was nothing that I wanted any part of. Of course later I did play it and was completely enthralled but that wasn't until a little later. In fact the very letters RPG made me turn my brain off to a game. I rented this game one weekend and was very much drawn to it's reliant nature on magic and currency. I felt more involved in a game than I ever had before. I felt like I could virtually go into this world and explore literally anything I wanted. I never bought this game but it was a rental for me and will always be credited with my first attempt at an RPG and helped me learn about the genre that would soon be my go to genre.
A semi-political game on the NES? A little surprising. Especially when the game opens up with this screen:
Certainly nothing risky or overtly offensive by any means but the game focuses on your team of guerilla fighters attempting to overthrow the government in some unnamed Caribbean country. In the Japanese version you play specifically as Che Guevara.
I was never a huge fan of the top down shooter perspective growing up and still really not much. Games like Gunsmoke, Ikari Warriors, etc. never did it for me usually because there was simply too much going on and the games were too hard for me. This one was an exception though. The game gives you unlimited continues and puts you right back where you died originally. So the game was easy to beat. Also the environments were very cool. You fight through a jungle, an abandoned city, a bonus level is in a mine car where you lasso POWs, and then the government building in a very regal looking palace or mansion. So for the most part this was a game i loved because I could beat it. Nothing more than that. I remember it being one of those rentals where nothing else was available so I took a flier on this one and ended up loving it.
Well that is the second part of my memories of the NES. As you can tell, the NES played a huge part in my life. Still does as a matter of fact. Being able to share these memories through articles has been a real blast for me. Hope you guys enjoy reading them and I look forward to some memories you all may have in the comments. I may do yet another installment, but I have other ideas on the way too. Thanks for reading!