Hello again, everyone. I'd like to begin this latest group of rentals with a couple apologies. First off, it's been quite some time since my last entry in this series. Sorry about that, but it just couldn't be helped. I've started a new career in general aviation and have been bouncing between shifts learning the ins and outs of everything. It's been good though, and I look forward to where it takes me. Secondly, I've been unable to edit my picture sizes, so some of game box pictures for this article are going to very large. It's not the biggest deal in the world I know, but it bugs me because I try to keeps things looking a little more uniform than what you will see as you read this. And I think that may be about it. Sorry again for the wait, so lets just get this ball rolling.
To be honest, I don't remember much about Super Pitfall other than I thought the box art was cool and I thought the guy in it kinda looked like Luigi. That and I used to wander around not really accomplishing anything. I hadn't played the original Pitfall yet so I also had no way of knowing it was a sequel at that time. I did eventually play the original on my grandpa's Atari and in the end, I'm sure I spent more time playing the original Pitfall, Pitfall 2: The Lost Caverns, and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure than ever I did playing Super Pitfall.
From what it sounds like, I didn't miss out. When getting my screenshots, I had to do a little digging first because I didn't even remember the name of the game, just the box art. And based on what I've read, the box art was the best part of this game. Seems there was nothing super about it, and the whole thing was mediocre through and through. But again, I don't remember anything about how it played and I'm not here to write a review. So lets move on.
One of the nice things about being born in the early 80's is that I got to grow up with the not just the cartoons of the time, but some classic animation from the past too. So along with Ducktales, Rescue Rangers, Muppet Babies...etc, I got to watch Droopy, Looney Tunes, classic Mickey Mouse cartoons, Hanna Babera classics like Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo, and Jonny Quest, and really vintage stuff like Hekyll and Jekyll and, yes, Popeye. I used to watch Popeye a lot, although I don't think it's a cartoon I would enjoy today. And just like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Scrooge McDuck, being able to play as a character I liked made renting this an easy choice. Unlike those other games though, Popeye was an arcade port. And for first few minutes of play time, my mom, sister, and I weren't quite sure what to do.
I don't remember who figured it out, but it didn't take long before we realized the goal. Olive Oil stayed at the top of screen and blew kisses towards the ground, which took the shape of hearts. Your job was to guide Popeye around level and collect enough of them to advance to the next stage. Bluto walks around the level and if he touches you, it costs you a life. Popeye does have a trusty can of spinach laying around to deal with him, but there's only one per stage. I wouldn't put this up there with Donkey Kong as one of my favorite titles, but I remember thinking it was pretty fun. But this was one of the first games we rented for the NES, and I was really little at the time and I haven't played it since then. (Though I've been wanting to lately, for whatever reason.) Hence, I have no accurate idea how it holds up. But I know I enjoyed when I played it and that's all I need to remember for this article.
Here's one I had my eye on for some time because the box art looked like a cartoon. But for whatever reason it was a long time before I finally rented it. And when I finally did, it was...weird. I didn't know this was a sequel to an arcade game so I didn't know it would play like one. As such, I thought it was the oddest platformer I had played. Back then I also had no idea platformer was even word, much less a genre, but you know what I mean. In time, I've learned Namco really used the Pac-Man idea of collecting everything in a map and moving on to the next one in several games. I personally favor Rally X for this type of gameplay. Mappy though...it's a weird one for me.
The goal of the original Mappy was to stop thieving cats by collecting all the items in the map and avoid touching the cats themselves. You could slam doors on them to stop them temporarily and there were trampolines to help you reach higher levels of the map. Mappy Land on the NES took this same idea and brought more of a journey aspect to it. The environments were much more varied and I think there was a little more platforming involved in this game. I do enjoy Mappy and it's somewhat odd play style, but it's not one of my favorite Namco arcade games. If I remember right, I think I was more disappointed with Mappy Land than anything else. Just not what I was expecting, I guess.
I played Excitebike only a couple times when I was a kid. The first was when when we rented it and the the other time was a friends house. During the rental, I just remember thinking how cool it was to ride a dirt bike around and go off big jumps. I also thought the night time course was pretty cool. I crashed a lot, but the didn't stop me from getting as much air as I could anyway off the larger ramps. At our friend's house, I use to build custom tracks and put nothing but the massive dirt mounds in them and race them over and over. But after that, Excitebike sort of drifted from my memory. I thought it was a cool and all, but I never tried to play it again for some time. In fact, I wouldn't rediscover what a little gem of a game this is until the Wii era.
I garnered new interest in this game after playing Excite Truck and Excite Bots on the Wii, both great games by the way, and learning that the same company who made those games also made an updated Excitebike available via download. I never did play it, but I watched some videos and I thought it looked pretty good. And then a few years later I played Red Lynx's Trials series for the first time and I was hooked. I wouldn't get back to the original Excitebike until playing it on my NES Classic Edition and after Truck, Bots, and Trials, I really had a grasp on the flow of the game, and jumping and landing my bike properly. And while I don't want to make more of this game than it is as it's very limited by modern standards, I stand by my statement earlier that this is a gem of an NES game, and one I still have a ball playing. I just wish I could have seen that back when my family rented it all those years ago.
I remember only two things about renting Circus Caper. The first is that my dad picked it out and the goal of the game was to save your little sister. The second is that I never beat the first stage. There were these alligators you had to get across and just like Pitfall, you had to wait until their jaws were closed to jump on top of them. What about this was so difficult for my young self, I don't know, but I just could not do it.
I've been tempted to revisit this game just to see how the rest of the game is. Plus I kinda dig the whole haunted/evil carnival thing. But I'm in no hurry. I don't have any other anecdotes for this one so let's move on.
Bayou fricken' Billy. It's now infamous for how hard it is, almost up there with Battletoads. I saw a commercial for it back then and thought the different game styles looked really cool. But when I rented it, that difficulty wasted no time smacking me in the face. I didn't beat the first stage. It took several attempts to make progress just beating up the bad guys coming at me, and even then I was thwarted by the game itself because the screen stopped scrolling. There were no other enemies on screen except alligators and I wasn't even going to try and take those on. After reaching that point a few times, I decided to look at the game's main menu. If I remember right, there was some sort of option that let you try the light gun and driving stages. This was a nice feature, but they weren't any easier than the rest of the game.
I also listened to different background music in the sound test option. Like other titles, I wanted try Bayou Billy again after I discovered emulation, and once again I got stuck at the same part in the first stage. If any of you know how to beat the level, feel free to let me know in the comments. I wouldn't put Bayou Billy in the same class as Konami's other titles like Castlevania or Contra, but I will say this; both those other games along with Gradius got downloadable Rebirth games on Nintendo's Eshop, and I really think Bayou Billy would have done well with the same treatment. Switching from beat-em-up to light gun to racing would have been a breeze with the Wii-mote, and it would given developers a chance to polish and refine some of the clunkiness of the original. It's not something I'll hold my breath for but I'd still like to give a remaster or reboot of this game a try.
Looking back at the NES Metal Gear, I can't help but chuckle a little bit. I see this and I still can't believe this has gone on to become a blockbuster and beloved series. Granted, Metal Gear Solid is a far cry from this port, but it still amazes me. My dad chose this game and it sounded neat. But I also didn't understand it. Metal Gear is known for stealth, and I wasn't the only one unaccustomed to having to sneak my way around enemies and obstacles. So I set off to punch everything I passed. There was a set route you had to take to get to the base at the start, and I spent a good time wandering around same looking areas before figuring out the right way. On occasion I found out you could get in a truck and it will take you somewhere else. A friend of ours had this game and I played it at their house a few times, but the results were the same. In the end, I just had no clue what I was supposed to do.
So time goes by and during either late junior high or early high school, Metal Gear Solid comes out and my friend Jason gets it and the copy gets passed between our group of friends. I played through the game several times to unlock all the bonuses. I have to be honest though; while it's fun, I also find this series to be very overrated. It's waaaaaaaay too preachy with it's messages and I find the characters and the emotional moments to be more cheesy than anything. (Snake Eater though....I liked that one.) But anyway, once Metal Gear Solid was out, I remembered the NES game and wanted to give it another shot. Game Informer even published a complete walkthrough for the game. I didn't use it, but when I fired my up my emulator, I did make some real progress in the game for the first time. And that was nice. Of course now I know that it's a port of Metal Gear for japanese computers and that Hideo Kojima disowns the NES version. But I still can't help but chuckle looking at it and think to myself "Who knew how big this would get....
I don't remember much for Winter Games either except that one of the featured games was Figure Skating and that's what my mom and my sister would always play. There were other events too, such as skiing, speed skating, and I think the luge. But looking back, all I remember is spending more time watching the ladies of our house play the figure skating game then anything else. And that's about it. But here's some screenshots, anyway.
And as much as I hate to say it, I don't remember a whole lot about the next game on the list either....
When looking for pictures for this game, I found out there were two NES Sesame Street games. This is the one I played. Normally edutainment is something I avoid, but I was still very young at this point and was content that Sesame Street was in video game form. As the box art suggests, there were two games here. The first involved Ernie as a magician, and I think the goal was to match whatever shape he pulled out of his hat. I loved Bert and Ernie as a kid, so I know played this one first. The second game featured Grover.
I wish I could remember what the goal was here, but I know it involved simple math. And when you had completed whatever it was you were supposed to do, you were rewarded with something like a spaceship flying away, or a cool looking constellation, or something like that. It's been decades since I've played this game so I really don't remember. In addition to renting this myself, I also played it at my neighbors house when he rented it. And that's it.
Along with myself, the rest of my family thought Super Mario Bros was pretty cool. (I still do.) Then one day on a routine trip to the video store, one of my parents, I think it may have been my mom, showed me this game and said "Have you seen this?" I had not. It was Mario Bros, except they weren't super. Up til then I thought Super Mario Bros was the beginning, I didn't think they had a previous adventure. Yet here it was. Mario and Luigi. With pipes and koopas and...crabs? The heck was this game?! Of course it was the obvious choice for our game rental, so we got it along with whatever movies we had picked out and went home. While adventure wouldn't be the right word for it, I had a lot of fun with Mario and Luigi's arcade outing.
To me it felt like we had stumbled across something lost or unknown and I remember talking to my cousin about it and saying "Hey, have you played Mario Bros.? Not Super Mario Bros, but just Mario Bros.?," and being very proud about my newfound gaming knowledge. I'm not gonna lie, I miss being naive about video games, it was a lot of fun "discovering" this stuff for the first time. But I'll touch more on that next article when I end this series. And while I prefer Donkey Kong in the end, I still enjoy the original Mario Bros. arcade game to this day. But man, I won't forget how it felt seeing a non-super Mario Bros game. It was the type of thing that just blew my mind back then.
And finally we come to this. For my final game in part six, I present to you all the craptacular Back to the Future NES game. Here's the thing though; for as reviled as this game is now, I honestly thought it was pretty fun back then. I hadn't seen the movie, in fact I wouldn't see the the trilogy complete for several years yet. (I like part 2 the best, personally.) So I just played Back to the Future in my ignorant bliss, and really enjoyed myself. And like many other games, my dad was better at it and I would watch him play because he could get farther than I could. I also remember playing this on a Wednesday night and then having to stop so we could go to church.
To this day, even knowing how bad it is now, I can't bring myself to hate this game. Because I remember being a little kid and going through the streets on my skateboard avoiding things and having a good old time with it. Yes, now I wonder what any of that had to do with Marty McFly getting back to future, but it didn't matter then. Such is the natural wonders of being a kid, I guess. I'd like to finish the game someday, or at least like to get to where you drive the Delorean and do something that happened in the movie. Will I ever, who knows...
And that's it for part six. I apologize again for delay in between articles and for the larger picture sizes. Next time, I will wrap up this series with part 7, and I've got another surprise for you as well. So until then, stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.