Hey again, everybody. It's that time again; More rentals, more memories. As the subtitle implies, we've got a couple bona-fide NES classics in this batch, along with a couple random games and something I consider to be a hidden gem. So let's get right to it.
In the beginning of this series, I mentioned that my mom would play our NES. This is the only period in our family where she did so on a somewhat regular basis. But even with that, Burgertime represents something even rarer still; she's the one who picked it out. In fact, I think this was the only time she picked out the family game rental. I liked the box art with it's hot dog, egg, and pickle people, and it seemed the like the game would funny as well as fun. So we brought it home and there's really not much else to say about it.
Burgertime was an arcade port where you played as a chef and the object was to climb to each floor and drop the various burger parts onto each other to form a complete sandwich. Do this to each burger and you move on to the next level. This is done while avoiding the previously mentioned anthropomorphic evil food. I enjoyed it more than Pac-Man, at the time at least. My mom had a lot of fun with it too, and she was pretty good at it. She got farther in it than the rest of us managed to. That's the big stand out here; different NES games bring back different memories, but Burgertime will always make me think my mom. ;)
Growing up, my dad and my uncle had a thing for remote controlled cars. They each had a gas powered one and would bring them to my grandparents house from time to time when they had their annual big family get-togethers. I may not have shared their affection for hobby shops and the like, but I always thought it was cool when cars came out. My grandparents had a huge
backyard so there was plenty of room to race them around, as well as make small ramps and such for them. Many of these rentals my dad just brought home with him, and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see this game catching his attention. It was great for me too because I wasn't allowed to race any of his RC cars myself yet. I did play with the control for it a lot though, just because I thought it was so cool looking. After playing RC Pro-Am, I thought it would be neat to make an RC game that came with a controller modeled after an actual RC remote, with the little steering wheel and trigger throttle. I still think that would be really cool. You'll have to forgive me there, I used to think up video game ideas all the time as a kid and as I write these, that wannabe game designer I used to be likes to come out from time to time. But for now lets get back to the game at hand.
There's not much more to it than it looks. You guide your car around the track and try to win. The tracks aren't exactly complex, but they have enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. In addition to the other cars, there's oil slicks and water puddles to avoid, as well as some other obstacles. There's also collectible upgrades on the track, and that's one of the stand-outs for this game. Rather than buying them, you had to pick up engine, body, and tire upgrades each race. There's also a letter on each track. If you spell out NINTENDO over time, you get a new car. There's not a ton of cars to get, it may have been only two new ones in fact , but it's still a cool feature. RC Pro-Am is one of my favorite NES games. Brent had it so after renting it I still got to play a lot of it. There's an RC Pro-Am 2 and that's also a nice little gem of an NES game, though I've only played it through emulation.
It all started with a mouse. This is not just true for the Disney empire of today, but also for Capcom Disney games. The partnership between the two usually resulted in NES and SNES classics. Mickey Mousecapades, while not what I would call an outright bad game, does not hold up to the rest of them I'm sorry to say. Part of this could be because it was developed by Hudson and not Capcom. Did any of this matter to child self? Not in the least. I was just thrilled that I got to be Mickey Mouse in a video game and that was all I needed to enjoy this game back then. And enjoy it I did, although I never got past the second level. The first stage was a type of fun house or mansion. I remember exploring it for keys or something and then finally fighting a witch boss at the end. I also remember you controlled Mickey and Minnie at the same time but it was possible for Minnie to captured and you had to go back and to specific room to find her if she did. I remember being very annoyed when this happened.
But even with that, that first level wasn't too bad. The second stage ramped things pretty quickly. You crossed a body of water, hopping from one island to the next, while being assaulted by waves and birds. It was brutality and under my guidance, those two mice took many a beating. I never got past it, but my dad got to the boss once. It was an alligator who through bubbles of all things at you. And that's where the memories end for the rental. I played it again years later with my cousin Alan, and he made it look very easy. But time just proved that Capcom could do much better with the Disney License, and almost every other Disney game they made afterwards is a testament to that. Still, even though it's not a great game, it is playable still and more fun today then Capcom's own Adventures in the Magic Kingdom. So I guess it really wasn't the worst way to kick off a mostly otherwise great legacy.
Even though it's number 43 and in part five of this list, Kung Fu was one of the first games I ever rented for the NES. I can remember my mom taking me to the video store and picking this out myself. This was back in the day when ninjas and anything related was pretty much awesome by default. This is something that would last for entire NES era. Ninja Gaiden, Wrath of the Black Manta, Little Ninja Bros, Legend of Kage...the list goes on. But before all of that, there was Kung Fu. As usual, I was not good at the game by any stretch. I don't think I ever beat the first level, as there was a guy with two sticks who was just too difficult for me to overcome. Looking back, this only amounted to a minute or two of play time each life. Of course, I wasn't paying attention to that back then and was just happy to be playing a new video game. Being an early NES game, there's not a whole lot to Kung Fu. In fact, I can sum up the entire game using the screens below.
Granted there are some mild aesthetic background changes and some different enemies, but that's all this game really has to offer. It's only five levels long. But even with it's brevity, I've seen this game appear on more than one toughest NES games list, and it's believed that most people who have played it have never reached the end. I never beat the first level during that rental, and my dad only reached the 2nd, I believe. Is it a classic NES game? I'm not sure. It's very short and bare bones but there's also a certain purity to it's simple punch, kick, and move forward gameplay. Enemies come at you from either side and with proper reactions, the game can be conquered. For all it's silliness, it shows no mercy either. It's a far cry from Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros. 3, Startropics, and the rest of the true NES classics, but there's still something about Kung Fu that I can't help but like to this day. I'm not gonna lie, I wish it was one of the included games on the NES Classic Edition.
Even though I've never been a big sports fan, there was always something about boxing that I found interesting. I think it's the gloves. I've always thought they look cool and I've felt cool the few times I've worn them. (I can't explain it folks, it just is what it is.) I'm also almost positive that the one I rented was Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! and not the one featuring Mr. Dream. I'm assuming we all know this game really well by now, so I'll stick solely to my own experience with it. I didn't know anything about the arcade origins of this game when I rented it and didn't understand anything about timing or pattern learning necessary to progress in this game. I simply booted it up and started throwing punches. I was able to beat Glass Joe this way, but during that rental I never got past Von Kaiser. I also failed to grasp how the heart meter worked and kept getting mad when Little Mac would turn pink and I couldn't attack for a little while. (I'm also sorry to say my suckiness at the game continued with it's sequel. First time I played Super Punch-Out!!, I lost to Gabby Jay. Feel free to mock me for it, it's deserved.) Whether my dad grasped the mechanics or not I can't say, as I wasn't paying attention to his technique. But he must have been doing something right because he did manage to get to King Hippo. He wasn't sure what to do to hurt him and the one time he managed to knock his pants down, we all laughed because we thought it was nothing more than just a comical effect.
A couple years later around the 3rd grade , I watched a friend of mine play it and he couldn't get past Great Tiger. I didn't learn the right way to play Punch-Out!! until around high school. Brent introduced me to emulation around that time, and this game was one of the first games he showed me. He taught how to play it properly and after he copied this, the emulator, and a couple other games on floppy disk for me, I took it home and made it my mission to to finish Punch-Out!!. I never did, but I was able to get to Mr. Dream at least. Not just on the emulator but on the actual cartridge as well. (I also went on to beat Super Punch-Out!! too, though I was literally stuck on Hoy Quarlow for years
.) Even though there is only a total of three Punch-Out!! games now, five if you count the arcade games, this is one of my favorite series from Nintendo and I hope there's another entry in the future. Along with new F-Zero and Metroid games, of course.
Vertical scrolling. That was the big impression this game left on me. Yes there was some of that Mario 2, but it didn't make up half of the gameplay like it did in Kid Icarus. Since that was the title of the game, I also thought that was the name of it's hero. I think it was mentioned in the instruction booklet or something that he was called Pit, but if it was I didn't notice it. Like so many other games we rented, I didn't get very far into the game. But I did read that the bosses were housed inside mazes, and I dreaded the thought of navigating them. As I've said before, me and exploration in video games didn't mesh well back then. That's really all I remember specifically about renting this. I liked it, but I don't recall playing it a ton.
I also didn't know Kid Icarus was such a fondly remembered Nintendo franchise until my friends were talking about it years later. I was glad to be able to say I knew what they were talking about and that I had played it, but I also didn't remember anything about it, such as the eggplant wizards or that Pit's name was even Pit. I do remember my top secret passwords guide showing screenshots of Medusa and thinking that part looked pretty cool. But that was really it. I didn't play through the game in it's entirety until the 3D classic version of it on the 3DS. I didn't know before then that there were completely side scrolling levels in it. I've never played the Game Boy sequel, but I really liked Uprising on the 3DS. While I can appreciate Kid Icarus for what it was now, the thing that stands out to me about renting it will always be the vertical scrolling.
I really don't remember too much about Karnov either, except that I saw a commercial for it once and that's what made me want to rent it. My mom took me down to video store while my dad was at work, I found it, and that's really it. You played as muscular Arabic looking guy who could spit fire and you fought some weird enemies like dinosaurs and other random things. There were items you could collect like ladders for reaching high places, but I know that tripped me up for some reason. I think it's because I wasn't sure how or where to use them at first.
This was an arcade port, but I've never seen the arcade version of it anywhere, either then or now. In addition to the commercial for the NES game, I also saw one for Tiger Handheld version. It was featured with other titles based on NES games, like Simon's Quest. I wish I had something else to tell you all about it, but I really don't. I will say that when looking for screenshots of it to post, it looks like it got more interesting than any of the progress I made. Maybe I'll watch a play through of it sometime.
Folks, I'd like to introduce you to what I believe to be a hidden gem on the NES. My dad brought this home one day and I'm really glad he did. Air Fortress is divided into two game play styles. The first is similar to side scrolling shooters like Gradius. Here you fought waves of different enemies to try to get the air fortress. Once you got there, you descended into it and had to make your way to it's core. This was played like more traditional side scrolling games, although you had you jetpack. After fighting your way to the core and blowing it up, you had to make your way back to the entrance and escape before the fortress exploded. The tone and atmosphere completely changes here. The fortress gets dark and the screen starts to shake more and more the closer it gets to blowing up. It was very tense for my young self and even genuinely creeped me out a few times.
Escape and you make your way to the next fortress. I really enjoyed it and played it a lot. I'm also pretty sure we rented it more than once. Either that or someone we knew rented it and I played it at their house. I didn't realize it until looking up the box art, but this game was made by Hal Laboratories, same folks behind Kirby and Lolo. That probably explains why I enjoyed the game so much, and also why the music for the game is pretty good. The only thing about it I don't care for is that there is no way to save your progress. That's common for a lot NES games, but even a password after every two or three levels would really help this title. Even so, if you have never played Air Fortress I highly encourage you to do so. It's one of my personal favorites on the console.
When I was kid, I rented just about every Godzilla movie I could get my hands on. Many a happy hour was spent watching the giant lizard battle his massive enemies so when I saw there was Godzilla video game, I knew I had to play it. But despite my excitement to be in control of the worlds most popular radioactive monster, Godzilla: King of the Monsters failed to measure up to my hopes in every conceivable way. For starters, there are no cities to level. Rather, you guide Godzilla through different planets, going through boring side scrolling levels before facing mostly monsters I've never heard of, or had nothing to do with Godzilla at all. There was this weird grid system you navigated that housed the areas you would go to, but it was very off-putting and didn't fit anything that Godzilla is supposed to be. The Godzilla sprite looked kinda cool, but that's really the only good thing I can say about this game.
You could also play as Mothra, but she didn't add much to it. Whereas Godzilla had his classic breath attack, Mothra attacked by dropping what looked looked like her skin on enemies. Her ability to fly didn't make things any more interesting either. This is one the first games I played that I remember being completely disappointed with. I didn't want to admit the game was bad at first, but it became undeniable after a little bit. I've read that eventually you do face classic monsters from the films, but it takes several levels before they show up. Frankly, I have zero interest to play this again and get that far.
You'd be hard pressed to find a 3rd party game that's as beloved on the NES as much as Bionic Commando. And even though I think the box art for the game is extremely cool, it may surprise you all to learn that I'm not this game's biggest fan. Years after renting it, I remember being surprised that it was as well regarded as it is. So what was it about Bionic Commando that failed to impress me? Well, in all honesty I think it was it's defining element; the grappling hook. Try as I might, I just could not get the hang of it when we rented this. Every time I picked up the controller, I did my best but always wished for a proper jump when I was done. I thought the overhead stages when you had an encounter on the map were really cool though, and I wished they were a bigger part of the game. If you are one of the many who love this game, don't shake your head just yet. That was just that rental from when I was a child. I've still got more to tell here.
Once the mid 2000's hit, I began to look back on these games and the time they came from, and wondered what others had to say. This is what led me to retrojunk in the first place. In addition to what I've read here, other sites and people I've talked to have said time and again that this was classic and one of their favorites. I also learned of Hitler's infamous exploding head. So along with exploration games like Metroid, Zelda, and Goonies 2, I was looking forward to giving this game another shot. When I did, I had a better grasp on what I was doing in terms of the grappling hook, and I had more fun over all. But in all honesty, it's still not one of my personal favorites. I think it's a good game and can understand why others hold it in such high regard, but it just doesn't hit me the same way. But the comic book style box art...that still rocks.
And there you have it. Five down, two more to go. I enjoyed reflecting on this particular batch of rentals and I hope you readers enjoyed it too. Until next time, stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.