Major Video and the NES, Part 4

More arcade ports and licensed games.
By Bro
February 09, 2017
Hello again everyone. Here we are now on part four of this series and in case anybody is interested, I've been going over my list and how I'll space everything out and this will end up being a seven part series in total. Whether or not you read them all is up to you of course, I just write the things. But I am looking forward to the final part of this series, as I've been thinking about my final thoughts on all this and I have quite a bit to say, much more than I initially thought I would. But one step at a time. One quick thing; my memory is not infallible and there some things that try as I might, I just can't recall. So let me start this list with two quick games I have absolutely no anecdotes for.



No stories, no nothing. All I know is that I rented both of these games. I'm also pretty sure my dad picked both of them out. I can remember playing them and watching my dad play them. But that's honestly it. I don't remember how they were played, what the goal's just blank there. Looking at it again, I do think that the Elevator Action box art is pretty cool. Wouldn't mind having a poster of it. Mighty Bomb Jack on the other hand....I thought it was silly looking then, and I think it's silly looking now. That's that, let's move on to some better remembered things.


Growing up, I loved adventure stories. My dad would read The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries to my sister and I when we were kids. I watched shows like Ducktales and Tailspin on tv, and rented a lot of Jonny Quest and Thunderbirds tapes. In addition to being fun to watch and listen to, they filled my head with dreams and captured and stirred up my imagination. Many times I would play outside and go on imaginary adventures with my favorite characters. I was around 8 years old when The Rocketeer came to theaters, and knowing all I just told you you can imagine how unbelievably cool it looked to me when I first saw previews for it. It seemed incredible, and I'm sad to say that my family never went to go see it. But that didn't stop me from wanting to and when I saw this game on the video store shelf one afternoon, I figured it was the next best thing.

And I remember enjoying it a lot. Having not seen the movie, I paid close attention cut scenes. Like most of the movie-based games of that era, you guided the lead character through different environments of the film, punching and shooting gangsters as you did so. The rocket pack could only be used when there was fuel, and that wasn't all that common to find. It was used more for specific moments, such as the night club. Speaking of which, I hadn't seen the movie so I didn't know you were supposed to fly up and break through the glass in the ceiling at the end of that stage. The screen would stop scrolling and I would keep wondering when the bad guys would stop respawning. I found out what to do completely by accident. I only played it during that one rental, but I remember having a lot of fun with it when I did. And I did eventually see the movie, but only recently. I watched for the first time last fall and I'm happy to say I thought it was a lot of fun. Really enjoyed it, especially James Horner's musical score. I also learned of The Rocketeer's comic roots, and read one of the recent ones, "Cargo of Doom." But my first time spent with the character was the film trailer and the NES game. I won't forget that.


Superman was my favorite super hero when I was kid. He flew and he was all but invincible, what was not to love? The thing about licensed games back then for me was the thrill of being able to play as characters I already loved. I never bothered to think that the game about them might be bad. Granted, there were a ton good licensed games on the NES. Combine that with the fact that I was still little and you can understand why anything that had a character I liked on it never made me think twice. Such is the case with Superman, the video game. We rented this on the way home from church, I think. The thought of being able to fly around as Superman was great and I couldn't wait to play it. There was a catch though; I had to clean my room first. I've no doubt I whined about the unfairness of such a thing, but it was to no avail. No clean room, so Superman.

You know how it goes when you have to do something you really don't want to do in order to do something you really want to do. It takes forever to finish it. And my room just refused to get clean that afternoon. Whatever charm this game held over me sure worked, because it felt like it took hours to get my room finished. I even took a break for lunch, in hopes that in the mean time I could watch my Dad play the game. But much to my disappointment, he wasn't playing it. Eventually after what felt like days later, my room got cleaned and I was able to sit and play Superman for myself. As you can probably tell by the screenshots above, the wait wasn't worth it. At first walking around as Clark Kent and using a phone booth to turn into Superman was cool. And flying was fun, too. But it wasn't long before the novelty wore off. No matter which way I went, I never made any real progress. There was also no indication of where I was supposed to go or what my goal was. Was I supposed to talk to somebody? I have no idea. I played it off and on the next couple days but I never did figure it out. I look back on it now and I can't help but laugh at how badly I wanted to play this crummy game. Oh well. The Batman NES games more than made up for this one.


Like Breakthru, I played this at my neighbor's house first before renting it myself. We played it for a little bit and then went to play outside. While doing so, I kept asking my neighbor's dad what the name of the game was because for some reason I just couldn't remember it. It sounded to me like "Russian Attack," and his dad had to keep correcting me. After playing with my neighbor for awhile, I went home and told my dad about this cool game I played at his house and asked if we could try and go rent it ourselves. He said yes. I don't know if it was the same day or not, but it wasn't long at all before we went out to look for it. When we did, my dad was the one who found it. The goal of the game was to infiltrate enemy territory and destroy their secret weapon. The controls where a little different than I was used to. "A" was the attack button, and "B" was for your bazooka when you picked one up. You also had to press "up" to jump. This isn't complicated by any means, but I remember it really throwing me off at first. You didn't have a gun by default either, you had a knife instead.

The first thing I have to mention is two player co-op. This is a feature that almost always makes good games even better, and it was no exception here. I played it with my neighbor and I played it with my dad. The gameplay here was simple, just knifing enemies and jumping over the occasional landmine, but it was challenging. One hit was all it took to kill you and send you back to the beginning of the level. Most enemies are easy enough, but there are some that jump-kick you and being too close when they do so means death. I thought it was pretty cool, but I never got the past the 2nd level. Why? Snipers. There were enemies in guard towers shooting at you and avoiding their fire and jump-kickers at the same time was just too much for me. I got to the end of the level where you face a barrage of enemies instead of a boss, but I just couldn't do it. Jump kicker got me in the face. (What the heck was in their boots that was causing all this instant death, anyway?!) There was a cool little scene of your guy jumping a fence when you beat the first level, so at least I had that to look forward to. When I first found out about emulation, this is one of the games I got excited about playing and saving state with. Call it cheating if you will, but years later it felt nice to finally conquer that second stage.


This a kind of a funny story. Remember in my intro for the first article in this series that I mentioned that there was one instance we rented a game and I didn't know about it until it was time to return it? This was the game. I just walked out of my room one evening and saw my dad playing this. "What is this?" I asked. My dad said it was called Gunsmoke. When he got a game over, I asked him if I could play. He said no because he had to take it back. Where was I? A friends house for the weekend? I have no idea. I just know that the few minutes I spent watching my dad deliver 8-bit six gun justice was enough to make me wish I had a chance to swap some lead myself. But that was the last time Gun.Smoke entered our household. At least in cartridge format. That's my rental anecdote, but there's also a little more to the story.

Like Rush N Attack, emulation gave this title new life for me. That few moments I saw my dad play it must have left an impression on me because years later, I still wanted to play it for myself. Was it worth the wait? It's not the best NES game in the world, but it is a solid arcade shooter. You go through different areas gunning down bad guys until you reach the boss. A and B make you shoot right and left, and both together makes you shoot straight. Weapons like shotguns can bought too. Unlike the arcade version, you have to obtain a wanted poster before the boss can be reached. These can be bought or sometimes dropped by an enemy. Otherwise the screen will just scroll in an endless loop. It's very similar to Capcom's WW2 shooters, 1942 and 1943. The screen autoscrolls and you move around and fire at enemies while avoiding theirs. The setting is the big difference here. The wild west is, even today, a severely underused game setting and it makes this title stand out. The music is good too. In terms of retro arcade games I still like Sunset Riders more, but I would gladly own this if I had an NES.


This game was my introduction to The Goonies. When my dad brought this home, I thought the cover looked cool but I honestly had no clue it was a movie. I just thought it was a sequel to The Goonies, the NES game. I then proceeded to wonder why I could never find the original Goonies game anywhere. (There actually was both an arcade and NES game based directly on the film, but that's another story.) So in my ignorant bliss, I picked up the controller and began exploring the Fratelli hideout and smacking enemies with my yo-yo. Like other games back then that required exploration to make progress in, such as Metroid, Legend of Zelda, or Castlevania 2, I spent my time wandering around the map looking for the next level that wasn't there. There were a decent of amount of environments in this game to make my ultimately fruitless journeys fun, at least. And that's a big difference between this game and other ones I mentioned; even though I had no idea where to go or what to do, I still thought it was fun. As I got older and learned how games like this were supposed to be played, Goonies 2 was a title I was looking forward to having the chance to play again.

Some time after renting this, we visited some friends of ours in Colorado, and while we were there they rented The Goonies. This was when I first discovered there was a movie that inspired the game and I was really looking forward to seeing it. But I've told that story before and most of you are aware by now that it was not when I was able to see the film for the first time. Nevertheless, I did see it eventually and it remains one of my personal favorites to this day. When I finally was able to rediscover The Goonies 2, along with reading more info about it on the internet that wasn't an option when I first rented the game, I was impressed. First of all, the map for the game is two sided. This can make getting lost very easy if you lose your bearings, but it's a unique idea considering the era this game came from. The control can be somewhat clunky for them, but the first person areas where you find items and free your fellow Goonies was also an ambitious touch. There is just one thing I'm curious about; the goal of the game is to rescue your fellow Goonies, and then free Annie the Mermaid. A mermaid is pretty random thing, but Annie is treated as a longtime friend of Mikey and the gang. Maybe there was something in the instruction booklet about it. Doesn't matter, I still call this one a classic and put it up there with the best licensed games on the console.


Unlike Goonies 2, I was well aware that Top Gun was a motion picture. Even at my young age, the popularity of that film was kind of hard to miss. Neither my wife or myself saw the movie for the first time until the mid 2000's though. (To be honest, we really weren't that impressed.) I saw this game at my aunt and uncle's house first. Not Brent's parents, but the other ones who lived near me, the same relatives I rented Yo-Noid with. Despite knowing nothing about the movie it was based on, I thought Top Gun looked pretty cool. And like I did so many times before, I got home and told my parents about it and said I'd like to rent it next time we were able.

You can look at these screenshots and get a feel for how the gameplay was. You flew around in first person view and went on missions. Battling it out with other jets was cool, and when the mission was over you had to land back on the aircraft carrier. I believe there was also some type of aerial refueling that had to be done on occasion, too. When landing on the carrier, you had to follow on screen prompts for which direction to press to land on it right. Afterwards a little cut scene showed you landing. This was a lot of fun to experiment with because if you screwed it up, the scene would show it. I struggled with landing for whatever reason so it usually showed me crashing, just missing, or overshooting it somehow. One time I didn't press anything and my plane simply dropped straight down into the water, which got a lot of laughs from me. There is also a sequel to the this game called Top Gun 2: The Next Mission, but I have never played it.


One of the things I've always admired about the NES was that it came packaged with a light gun. Considering what came before it, that's a pretty amazing thing. We had the grey model Zapper. When looking over at the NES catalog however, there wasn't a whole lot of titles that used it. Aside from the two games we had, Duck Hunt and Hogans Alley, we barely used it ourselves. I don't know whose idea it was to rent Operation Wolf, but I do know the chance to use the Zapper again was good enough for me. The general consensus for NES port of this game is that it's terrible in every regard. When we rented this, I didn't know it was an arcade game. I thought it was just a new NES light gun game. I didn't even know you could use the regular controller when we rented it. I wasn't too good at it, only beat the first and maybe second levels, but my dad had a knack for it. Using the Zapper, I watched him get to the game's final level. It was a lot of fun to watch and I was really hoping he would be able to finish it. He didn't but man, what rush just the same. Later on I was at our local skating rink for a friends birthday and I saw the arcade version of this game for the first time. It's pretty cool, it has a replica of an Uzi mounted in front of the screen that you use to shoot with.

Years later, after the NES's glory days were over, I discovered a friend of mine had this game. When he played it, he used the controller and moved a cursor around. I didn't know you could do that and asked if I could give it a go. What a difference. For starters, the loud click of the Zapper wasn't being heard nonstop. It's also much more precise. I tried the gun again and it just felt off. It felt precise playing Duck hunt and such, but here it just felt kinda wonky. I told him my dad made it to the last level using the light gun years ago, and I'm still not sure he believed me. Now that I knew the controller was an option, I played it whenever I went to his house to see if I could beat the game. I never did, but like my dad I was able to get to the final level. Look up reviews for the NES version of this game now, and they will all be bad. I can see why looking at it now, but I can honestly say that my time spent with it back in the day was enjoyable and is looked back on fondly.


Along with classic Disney cartoons, I watched and rented a lot of Looney Tunes cartoons when I was a kid. I would change my favorite character a few times over the years, but back then it was Bugs Bunny. Much like Mickey Mousecapades and Ducktales, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle was a chance to play as a character I was a big fan of. So I plucked it of the shelf, excited to dive into it and see what it was all about. We didn't go straight home, though. We stopped at my Grandma's house first. Which was fine, I loved going to grandparents house when I was kid. But even as I enjoyed time with them, I kept thinking about the game that was out in the car. Fun fact - the back of this game's box is the first time I heard the term "main squeeze."

It was like a side scrolling Pac-Man. The goal was to collect all the carrots on each floor of the castle to advance to the next. You did this while avoiding characters like Daffy Duck, Sylvester, and Yosemite Sam. You couldn't jump, but you could use pipes and things to help you get away from enemies. I enjoyed it, but I remember getting stuck after awhile. More enemies show up at a time the further you get and they get harder and harder to avoid. Is it the best Bugs Bunny game out there? No, but it was a good way to start and like the other licensed games mentioned earlier, it timed perfectly with my childhood. When getting pictures for this article, I found out that Crazy Castle began as a Roger Rabbit game. Not sure why the license was changed but that's still interesting to know.


To be honest, I don't recall a whole lot about renting Rad Racer. I remember liking the name and I believe this may have also been the first racing game that I played. It was either this or RC Pro Am, but I'm pretty sure it was this one. The appeal for a game like this was being a little kid and being able to (almost) drive a car. It felt....rad. ;) One thing I don't remember being able to do is choose a vehicle. Rad Racer gives you a choice between two cars; a red sports car and an indy-style car. But when we rented it, I don't remember there being a choice. I started the game myself and all I remember me or anyone using was the red sports car. I wouldn't play Rad Racer again until after I moved out of my parents house and only then would I discover there was another car available.

Another thing I discovered about Rad Racer many years later is that it was playable in 3D and came with glasses to do so. Renting the game did not include the glasses and therefore I had no way of knowing that back then. I would have like to have tried that and see how it looked, if anything just for the novelty of it. It's
funny to think about how cool and revolutionary that must have seemed back then, and nowadays we have a DS with stereoscopic 3D that requires no glasses at all. It really is crazy what the time brings. It would be kind of funny if Rad Racer got released as a 3D classic on the 3DS virtual console, due simply to that reason.

And once more folks, we have reached the end. As usual, I hope these memories have brought back a few of your own. See you all again with Part 5. Until then, Stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.
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