Hype is a funny thing when you are a kid. You are a slave to it and you aren't even aware of it at the time. Let's take Nintendo Power for example: this mag was one of the greatest publications ever and yet it was a total shill for NES games. Why are you trying to sell me on the greatness of Friday the 13th when we all know it is crap? And yet, they lured me in like a fish. It's amazing what neon colors and askew colorful shapes in a background can do to a kid. When you think about it, disappointment was part of childhood. No, King Kong does not exist as a large gorilla, he is a machine or a man in a monkey suit. Christopher Reeve did not really fly, he was held up by wires more than likely snugly across his crotch. Or the most crushing to my kid sensibilities, the Jungle Cruise did not have real animals. These are the disappointments that shape us. But, the disappointments that you never truly get over are the missed opportunities and the NES excelled in those. There is no way a G.I. Joe game can suck right? Right?!? Well, not exactly. So what we are going to do here is cover those crushing blows to my childhood psyche. Curled up in front of my 12 inch screen and expecting to be blown away and feeling well...less than that after the initial playthrough, all the while trying to convince yourself it was good. That is until you finally hit that final stage of grief...acceptance.
Some of these games you may be saying to me: "King, come on, have you eaten one too many bananas? That is a great game!" You know what? I want to hear about it! Finding the difference of opinion is what makes the NES a great system. Some games work for some, but not for others. So without further ado....
I wanted to hurt this game so much. First off, it's pretty unclear to the prepubescent mind just what in the hell you are supposed to accomplish in this game. I mean, I get that you are trying to get clues in order to make an arrest, but for the love of God help me out here. I remember driving around in those overhead scenes in my cop car and just going in to random buildings looking for some action. I tried with this game. I really did. The summer Warren Beatty's film came out, I was a super fan. I had the black silhouette t shirt, I picked out my favorite villain (Pruneface) and I even convinced my grandparents that this had to be mine for my upcoming birthday. I scored the game from them and was let down within the first 20 minutes of play time.
Not only is the game skull crushingly boring, but the high concept of what they were trying to achieve does not translate well to the 8 bit NES system. It's almost like the were trying to make an L.A. Noire type game and it just doesn't work. First off, finding the clues is next to impossible and knowing where to go next and when to make the appropriate arrest and to which villain to charge was also nearly an insurmountable task. I realize that every game has it's difficulties but this game practically started you out on a very high difficulty level. There was no spike in difficulty, it was hard from the beginning. Now keep in mind I was 8 years old at the time and I probably haven't played this game in 20+ years so it may be easier than I remember, but this game will forever disappoint me in that it could have been a fantastic beat 'em up or shooter.
Back to the Future
To steal a line from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, when you make these little games for the NES, LJN, here's an idea, have a point! Why LJN waited until several years later to release a Back to the Future game is beyond me. Well, why it was released at all is also beyond me. This game sucks on levels that are hard to comprehend. I am a big fan of the original movie and was excited for this game. So much so that I elected to use my "one video game per Christmas" edict on this game...sight unseen of course. I unwrapped it, became instantly ecstatic and was treated to this...
What. Is. This. It was obvious from the get go that LJN had no inventive idea on how to execute a good Back to the Future game. So instead of shelving the idea and deciding that they don't want to put out a mediocre game, they went ahead and made the stupid thing. I mean this is LJN we are talking about here. Just like Dick Tracy this game was stupid hard. Basically you had to pick up small alarm clocks on a constantly moving screen in order to progress and not fade out your polaroid, all the while dodging random bullies, hoola hoop girls, bees and open manhole covers. I actually at one time did manage to get to the diner level but made it no further than that. Avoid this game at all costs.
One of the first VHS tapes I ever bought was from Goodtimes Video
(remember them?) and it was King Kong vs. Godzilla. I loved that movie and watched it countless times until the tape started to crinkle. Needless to say, I was a kaiju fan before I even knew the term. Giant monsters attack cities? Count me in! So when I saw this one sitting on the shelf at my local video rental store, it was a no brainer to me. Now to be completely honest, this game is not that bad. It's not a great game, but it is a decent time. I was just disappointed as a kid because I was expecting a game that would throw you into Tokyo and let you wreak havoc. Instead you open the game on a weird chess board looking thing rather than the traditional throw you right into the action type setting.
So you move your "piece" around until you get to a level that you need to pass in order to meet up with the boss. I did love that you could be either Godzilla or Mothra. The levels are pretty tough as there are a lot of things flying at you constantly but you did get your kick ass atomic breath.
The game was OK. The music was kinda cool but it just wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted destruction on massive levels. I wanted to fight Biollante then fight Kong Mortal Kombat style. Instead I got an action/strategy hybrid that just didn't work for my overactive mind. It was pretty tough but overall, the game did grow on me even though it left me less than satisfied on the initial play through.
Now this one is my own fault. I was a long time subscriber of Nintendo Power and they had a great magazine cover of this game.
Now you would think as a voracious reader of the mag that I would do a little research on it...but oh no. All I saw was NEW MARIO GAME!!! Looked very quickly at the pictures and decided that Dr. Mario (whatever the hell that was supposed to be) was destined for greatness. I ran down to the local video game store each Friday after school to see if it had come out and was available to rent. Finally, one day there it was. I put my best annoying whine for my Mom and had her drive me down to rent the game. I started it up and was perplexed....
Um...this isn't Mario? Why am I not stomping Goombas? Why haven't I just charred Bowser with a fireball? Where is Toad to annoy me? Where is the Princess? What is going on here? Is this a Tetris rip off? Well, I thought to myself I'm sure the game will do a complete 180 and turn into a Mario game once I get through all this crap. Nope never happened and the disappointment on my face showed at dinner. "What's wrong?" My Mom asked. "The Mario game isn't very good." I replied. The entire dinner was spent with me wondering how Nintendo Power had betrayed me so harshly. ME!! A loyal subscriber. I went back and perused the pages to realize that yes, NP made it very clear as to what I was getting myself into. For years I couldn't even play this game without the sour taste of regret and remorse filling my mouth. Today? I play it quite a bit and think it is a solid NES game. A solid NES game that had me duped.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
I covered this game at some length in a previous article so I won't go too far into this one. As quite honestly at this point the game's reputation precedes it so I won't go into Angry Video Game Nerd hyperbole and extol it's shortcomings. Let's just say this game took up way too much of my valuable time to be honored in any way shape or form.
It's a bad, bland boring and completely pointless bit of tripe. I saved for months for this game. Did various chores around the house, helped my Dad at the motel we owned, all for this! Why?!? That box art did it for me. At the time, it was the single coolest thing I had ever laid my eyes on. The monster half face, the "PSYCHO-WAVE!!!", everything, I loved it. Nintendo Power did an article on it in their upcoming games feature but I never recall reading a review on it. Not that I would have cared. I had to have this. Boy did I get burned. OK, I'm walking around aimlessly, let me try to hit someone with my cane...oh that doesn't work. Why did this guy just throw a bomb at me? Why did I die from a rabid cat? Why is there some fat woman throwing musical notes at me?!? Game Over?? I didn't even get to play as Hyde!! Well, eventually I did figure out the pointless mechanics and did get to play as the Hyde character. It was certainly more action packed but it did not save this turd of a game. Lipstick on a pig as they say. Eventually I Game Genie'd this game and held the right arrow until the end of the game and saw the end. Just like the rest of this game...pointless and stupid. I hope you enjoyed my $50, Bandai.
Data East once again with an NES arcade port. This game also falls under the "not that bad, but not that great" category. The reason this game let me down was just for the simple fact that it wasn't the arcade game. I had to learn the hard way that a port of a classic arcade game didn't exactly always live up to your lofty expectations of what you experienced in your local arcade. See: Rampage, TMNT II, etc. Not to say they are bad games, but they never quite moved as fast, graphics weren't as good, you get the idea. In fact this game suffered from a pretty average port.
Every year during Christmas time, my grandparents would give us a stocking with a $50 bill in it. They knew our voracious appetite for NES games and they weren't about to try and find a game titled "Bad Dudes" at their local Wal Mart in Elk City, OK. Anyway, we attended their Christmas, the next day we went to Fort Worth, Texas for my Dad's side of the family Christmas. I wasn't crazy about the trip, but my Dad hooked up a small TV in our family van and we could play the NES on the way there. One of the great things about Fort Worth was there was a Toys 'R' Us in close proximity to my grandparent's house. I brought my crisp $50 bill with me on the trip, fully intending to purchase Bad Dudes. Our first day there, my parents drove me there and I bought the game. We went out to eat at a local restaraunt and the entire time I was there, I wasn't wanting to socialize with the family, I wanted to read the Bad Dudes instruction booklet. Finally, we got home and I popped it in surrounded by my brothers and cousins. And it was.....OK. I just remember being so let down that the sprites were so awkward looking. When they jumped, they shrugged their shoulders like they were in a perpetual state of apathy. The hit detection in the game was also problematic as it seemed like I could never kill a guy without taking substantial damage myself. As time wore on, I actually did begin to appreciate the game despite it's flaws. Nintendo Power came out with a code for it that helped me beat it easily so armed with that code, I ended up playing this one a fair amount. Hey, at least one of these games ends up with a happily ever after...
OK, bear with me here. I love the Mega Man series. A lot. In fact, I love the Mega Man series so much, I had a dog named Rush. Yeah, I know, real original. But my first foray into Mega Man was Mega Man II. From reading various articles here on RJ, that seems to be the same kind of experience a lot of you had. I remember my friend bringing it over after he had rented it and thinking, "2? I didn't even know there was a 1." It had completely escaped my vision for some reason. Well I later owned MM2 and played it constantly and loved every single thing about it. So, I read in an issue of NP that Part 3 was coming! I had to get myself ready! I could either play MM2 for the billionth time or I could once and for all play the original, Mega Man.
I was welcomed to the boss select screen and went directly to Bomb Man. He seemed to speak to me the most and I was immediately intrigued..."oh cool, you can get points in this game!" Not that it really mattered to me in the long run, but it was something different. I had a few problems with this level though. I just couldn't breeze through it the way I did with MM2. No matter, it would just take some practice. I can try another boss level. Gutsman! Wow, those platforms just fall out from under you? I barely had even started the level. OK, Iceman! Ugh, those dumb disappearing blocks. I always sucked at those. Well, let's try Elec Man....OK, it's official, this game sucks. Yes, I said it, Mega Man 1 sucks. I still hold to that belief. First off, it is ludicrously hard. I'm sure some of you that have far greater skill than I can knock it out like a school yard bully but not me. Game Genie is the only reason I even got more than a quarter of the way through the bosses. I eventually beat Cut Man without the aid of anything but my lacking skill, but it was not easy. Look, I appreciate a challenge, but throw your controller against the wall difficulty is not for me. Secondly, the lack of things like E tanks or a password feature was just ridiculous to me. I realize that I was spoiled by Mega Man 2, but why didn't they think of those things earlier? Anyway, maybe I'm still being petty about it, but I just don't like the game to this day.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Another example of the hype machine in full force! This movie came out and I was ecstatic. I had the Roger Rabbit t shirt, the Roger Rabbit stuffed animal, the Roger Rabbit soundtrack, the whole nine. I went and saw the movie and liked it quite a bit. Didn't love it the way I wanted to since it was more of a light fare noire. When I got older my appreciation for it grew. So in lieu of my Roger Rabbit merchandise, I must have the NES game! I mean there is no way, movie franchised titles can be bad right? Yeah, I was misled by Dick Tracy, Back to the Future, Friday the 13th, Ghostbusters, and numerous others but that's not a trend right? Weeeelllll.....
Thanks again, LJN. This game was very similar in a lot of ways to Dick Tracy. You find clues, drive around in Benny the Cab and fight Doom's goons. And similar to Dick Tracy, you are just thrown into the game with no idea what the hell to do. Now I will admit that this is a better outing than Dick Tracy, but it just gives you nothing to work with. For some reason Eddie Valliant lost his face in what I can only guess is a tragic accident with the "Dip" but I digress. I don't even mind that the game is a little tough, but what the hell am I supposed to do? I mean, I got the overall concept of the game, but it was executed so poorly that it just made me wish I hadn't wasted my two or three bucks on it as a rental. So much potential for a game to tank so poorly. Instead, most of the time I just drove around and went into buildings and fought guys with no thought given to the ultimate goal to beat the game.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
This game represents the frustrations I used to have with NES sequels. You take a great game and then, the sequel comes along and you arbitrarily change it. Examples: Mario 2 and Zelda II. Don't get me wrong, I like those games a lot, but as a young kid, you want them to go back to doing the things they did in the first with maybe a tweak here or there. With this game, they did not do that. So much so that I hated this game for a very long time and I was a MASSIVE Castlevania fan. I grew up watching the Universal Monster movies on cable and when I played the first Castlevania, it was everything I wanted. Sure it was hard, but you fought Dracula! And zombies! And Frankenstein! And the Grim Reaper! And Mummies! It was 8 bit bliss. Nintendo Power announced to me that the sequel was coming! and if that news wasn't enough to get me excited, the cover of their Castlevania II issue sure was:
I wasn't prepared for an RPG experience. Again, it's a tough game to get into because you really have no clue what you are supposed to do. You are just thrown into a town and have to talk to townspeople to figure out your next course of action. This was a pretty tough transition from a balls to the wall action adventure game to a more RPG based game with a lot of "good luck, kid, figure it out yourself" thrown in.
Like a select few of these games, I have come to fully appreciate this game, but at the time I just couldn't get into it. Firstly, the game is very cheap. Cheap like floors that you fall through with no warning, cheap like having to hit monsters about 67 times with your weak whip starting off, and cheap in that you are supposed to somehow figure out to equip a crystal, kneel in front of a wall and a tornado will appear to whisk you away to the next castle. Come on. That's ridiculous. I guess they were relying on playground gossip or calls into the Nintendo tip line. I wanted the morning star whip! I wanted the eerie castle! All those things were not present in this game. It let me down so much that I was afraid I had lost my taste for Castlevania. Then Part III came out and I fell in love all over again. Now, I will admit from the get go, I did absolutely love the music in this game. Still to this day is one of the best on the NES. The town theme is my favorite. I have come around to the game since, but at the time I was thoroughly perplexed. It was like taking the Mona Lisa and urinating on it for all I could tell. Once I got older and came to appreciate RPGs, Simon's Quest became a favorite, but right off the bat, it left me cursed. (Horrible Castlevania pun drum line please)
I was a Marvel fan of the highest degree. I loved them all. Needless to say, the NES was not good to Marvel. XMen was beyond awful. Wolverine was an abomination. The Punisher made me wish I was blind...you get the idea. But for some reason, Silver Surfer intrigued me. I had read that you could select stages just like in Mega Man. I also saw pictures that alternated between side view and top down view. I liked that too! Kinda like Zelda II! But my heart sunk when I rented it and it was same ol' crap...
This is a pretty recurring theme, but the game is stupid hard. You get hit once and you die. That's it. Now you can get power ups and little extra guns below your surfboard that can help, but when there are things flying at you constantly from every angle imaginable, that's still not quite enough. Thankfully, my trusty NP mag came out with a code for it that gave you invincibility. That helped a tremendous amount obviously. Even then, breezing through the game was never that great of an experience. The graphics were sub-par and the boss sprites were not up to what I wanted to see. However, there is one absolutely GREAT thing about this game. The music. It is nothing short of sensational. As an entire soundtrack, this is one of the best on the NES. Every piece of music is driving, with heavy bass lines and a very spacey kind of feel to it. If you have never played this game, just start up the title screen and you can tell that the quality is far superior to many games as far as the music is concerned. In fact, I have this soundtrack on both my ipod and iphone and listen to it constantly. Give it a listen on youtube and you will see what I mean if you don't want to subject yourself to the torture of playing this awful game.
Well there you have it, just a few selections that tore my little heart out of my little chest. But at the same time, I almost cherish these games in a weird way. Almost as if they are just as charming for being so bad or for maybe expanding my horizons a bit. I'd love to hear games that did the same to you or maybe a game that is beloved that just didn't do it for you. Thanks for reading!