When it comes to old school video games, there are two genres I have a deep love for: 1) Beat-'Em-Ups. I'm a BEU junkie. Oh sure, I loves me some Mario Bros., but fire up Double Dragon and I will
play that damn game for hours, on any console, regardless of how bad the port may be. Find me a BEU coin-op in some bowling alley somewhere, I'll spend way more money playing it than should be acceptable. The original arcade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Lay it on me. Kung-Fu Master? Hells yeah. Renegade? All day long. I love 'em, I really do, bad or good, as long as it's a BEU. I still remember coming across Urban Champion years ago, excited because I thought I had found a primitive BEU, only to be bitterly disappointed when I discovered that it wasn't a primitive BEU at all, but rather a primitive 1-on-1 fighter, a genre I only like select games in.
Those aren't pics ripped from the net, either. Thems babies is mine
. See, I told ya!
And, 2) Movie-based games. This stems from when I was a little Bilfy. The killer versions of Batman for the Nintendo and Batman Returns for the Super Nintendo were pretty much obsessions for me back in the day. They really personify, to me, what I think any kid wants when buying a movie-based game: The ability to continue your favorite movie in your home, to be part of the action rather than a mere observer. At least, that's the idea. Most of the time, developers will prey on that idealism and release the shittiest game you ever did done seen, because, hey, if kids want it, it'll sell. The bigger the flick, the more the copies are gonna fly off the shelves. There's a lot that's changed in the video game industry over the years, but that fact remains a constant.
And yet, I love 'em. Especially if it's from the 1980's or early 1990's, if it's a movie-based game, I want it. Trust me when I say I've got a lot of 'em (indeed, I was originally planning on writing an article for EVERY movie-based game on the NES, and that morphed into one for just select games, and finally I just said "Screw it, I'll spotlight the ones I care about when I want, should the inspiration strike").
All that said, when I learned there was a version of Lethal Weapon for the NES years ago, I absolutely had
to have it. I love 1980's action flicks, and an NES game based on any of them is enough to cause me to bust a move, regardless of whether I'm in public or not. I mean, once I get the damn NES to stop blinking, I can play as an 8-bit Danny Glover! That's worth some public embarassment, right? Besides, if no one's gonna make a game based on Collision Course, this is the next best thing.
Lethal Weapon for the NES is not an especially well-known game. It ain't mega rare or anything like that, but I can honestly say that it took me years
to secure a prized copy. I'm not sure what the promotions budget was for this game, but considering I had known about Darkman and freakin' Cool World for many years before learning of Lethal Weapon, I'd guess Ocean didn't shell out a whole lot.
Oh yes, this is an Ocean game. In the wide world of NES developers, Ocean ranks somewhere down there with LJN and TH*Q. Ocean's thing was movie-based games, most of which weren't very good. Some games, such as The Untouchables, had so much promise in theory, yet the actual game blows. And The Untouchables is one of my favorite movies; If even I couldn't cut the video game adaption any slack, Ocean must have screwed up bad somewhere.
I love Goodwill simply because of things like this.
Lethal Weapon has a few things going for it: First off, it's a Beat-'Em-Up, always a plus in my book. Second, it's based on one of the best action movies of the 80's. Well, that's not quite true. It may be titled simply "Lethal Weapon", but the cover art is decidedly 1992's Lethal Weapon 3, even if they airbrushed the 3 out. Third, well, look at it. I've long held that, and I'm being serious here, that even if a game royally sucks, it benefits just by being on the NES. Maybe it's because I feel the NES is the best console ever (debatable to some, I know, but that's my opinion, deal with it), but I think in this case it has to do with the actual cart. I mean, in the world of old school games, is there anything as heartwarming as an NES cart? I swear, the original cart for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sends me into spasms of nostalgia. Even if a game has terrible artwork (Mega Man), once it's thrown on that grey case with the ridges, somehow, it's okay. Brings a tear to my eye, I wanna tell ya.
Lethal Weapon certainly has that early-90's look on the outside, and once you start the game up, well, it looks like an early-90's game there, too. Y'see, something that afflicted many NES games in the waning years of the console is what I like to call "Microsoft Paint" syndrome, and LW has it in spades. I'm not sure what it is about those later games (and it's mainly the movie-based ones, I've noticed), but the graphics look like they were drawn on, say it with me, Microsoft Paint. Check out Cliffhanger, or Cool World, or the game that haunts my nightmares, Last Action Hero, and you'll see what I mean. Maybe it's the black outlines around the characters, but the end result is that some earlier NES games actually look *more* realistic. I mean, Bad Dudes looks waaaaay better than LW. Then again, Bad Dudes is one of mankind's golden achievements, so maybe that's a bad example. Still, look at these sprites:
Sgt. Martin Riggs
Sgt. Roger Murtaugh
Mel Gibson's stock may have fallen bit in the last few years (*cough* UNDERSTATEMENT *cough*), but this was made back when everyone didn't hate him. The game's likenesses of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are, well, kinda sucky. Granted, this IS the 8-bit NES, you wouldn't expect them to look all that great, but these still ain't doing it for me. Riggs looks less like Riggs and more like Jonathan Turner from Boy Meets World, which is actually a pretty great idea for a video game, too. I'm not sure who Murtaugh looks like, but I'd guess when Danny Glover saw his sprite, he said "I really AM too old for this shit!".
Also, you've got to see the way these guys walk. It's the goofiest, most half-assed animation Ocean could have possible come up with. Words can't describe it.
There are lots bad guys in the game, most of them aren't very interesting, but there are a couple I've taken a liking too:
Fake Colonel Trautman:"God didn't create Rambo, I did!"
Guy from any 1990's anti-drugs PSA:
Fats Domino:"I gotta whole lotta lovin' for you!"
Oh, and there's also a little hostage guy you have to save at certain points:
No problem, little hostage guy.
Okay, okay, so the game was made by a terrible developer and has bad graphics, that's two strikes, but LW ain't out yet. As Meat Loaf once told us, two out of three ain't bad (I know that really doesn't make any sense in this context, but I'm gonna reference Meat Loaf anyway). The gameplay is what counts, good gameplay can cause even ugly graphics to be forgiven.
No dice. The gameplay is pretty bad, too. The first sign of trouble is that you've got NO chance to react to new bad guys. They second they see you, they're firing. And, they're always moving all over the place, so you ARE going to take some undeserved hits. The bad guys never change strategies, never get smarter. The only change is that as you progress, it takes more hits to kill them.
You can switch between your gun or your fists/feet, but oddly enough, your guns are the weaker of the two! I guess I shouldn't expect realism from a game that lets you take a chopper down with one, later two, kicks (yes, really).
Why are we in Egypt all of a sudden?
There are plenty of things to jump on, bridges to avoid falling off of, etc., but on the whole, the levels are pretty linear. You walk from one area, get your ass kicked, and then move on to the next. The backgrounds change (and some of the later ones I actually kinda like), but on the whole, it's a pretty repetitive game. Now, I know BEUs are by nature kinda repetitive, but the good ones nevertheless keep things fairly fresh. LW isn't one of those games.
You only get two
lives per game, and one continue. You start out as Riggs, and if he bites the dust (and he will), Murtaugh jumps in. This is a one player only game, and that points to one of Ocean's biggest goof-ups: No simultaneous Riggs & Murtaugh action!
Seriously, what the hell? A two player game with both characters is a freakin' no-brainer! But nope, it ain't happenin'. Remember when Tradewest ported the first Double Dragon to the NES, but inexplicably left out the two player simultaneous action (probably the biggest draw of the arcade version)? Well, that was boneheaded, but 1) it was a relatively early NES game, and 2) the game itself was still amazingly fun. LW has no such excuses. I mean, really, what the hell, Ocean?
Fake Col. Trautman's hang out? A tree house, apparently. Hey, maybe this really is
a game based on Boy Meets World!
In an effort to show creativity, there are differences between the two characters - just like the movie!
Riggs can jump higher, but his kicks are slightly weaker. Murtaugh is stronger, and he has the ability to lift crates, an ability that is apparently beyond weakling Riggs (but then, Murtaugh unbelievably can't pick up the little knives
found periodically on the ground), but his jumps are basically worthless. There are points where guys pop out of holes in the ground to shoot at you, and in the later levels where they take more hits to kill, you'd better pray you're using Riggs, because Murtaugh IS going to get his ass kicked. Oh sure, he can pick up crates and grenades and whatnot to throw at these whack-a-mole rejects, but the throwing aspect is kinda goofy and not really worth the time (whatever you throw kinda goes in a sad upward arc before landing, not the kind of throw you'd expect from two hardened cops. Apparently Riggs & Murtaugh have the throwing ability of Niles Crane).
By walking off-screen to the left, you can switch characters at any time (provided one hasn't died already), which will replenish some health and prolong your game, but really, is that any substitute for two player action? NO.
What the hell?!
At least the controls do what you tell them to do. I mean, if you push the kick button, you're going to kick fairly responsively. It's one of the few decent aspects of LW, but the difficulty is so lopsided right from the start that it doesn't really matter.
Once you get to the art gallery or whatever the hell it is, the backgrounds actually kinda sorta look halfway decent. Maybe.
What about the sound? It ain't pretty. The NES is capable of putting out some truly kickin', memorable music. I mean, Contra? Castlevania? Batman? No, it's never CD quality, but there's something to the NES' sound output that's just so infectious, you can't help but get pumped to kick some ass.
If the music is done right, that is. LW's soundtrack isn't. It's almost not fair to even really call this music. There's a looping noise playing throughout each level, but I hesistate to call it a soundtrack. It's like some weird techno hybrid, and it sounds awful. All of the music in the game is terrible, annoying, mindless, and yet, somehow it all manages to perfectly recall early-90's gaming. I'm not sure why, since there was waaaaaay better music in a thousand other games released at the time, but for as bad as it is, the soundtrack actually does recall that time period. I've said it before, I'll say it again: What the hell?
Murtaugh: 'Bout to get blasted in the face.
Oh, and the sound effects? If they couldn't produce listenable music, what makes you think the sound effects are going to be any better?
Murtaugh: 'Bout to take a piss on that poorly programmed palm tree.
There's basically little strategy involved with pretty much anything you do here. The enemies are so cheap that all you can really do is walk up to them and fire away. Same with the bosses. In many BEUs, you've got to figure out the weakness of any given boss, and exploit it. In LW, the bosses are just bigger versions of all the other bad guys. Walk up to them and slam on the punch button as fast as you can. If it weren't for all the cheap hits you're exposed to, this would be the easiest game ever.
So, what is the plot to all of this mindless madness? According to the manual, the game appears to be loosely based on, say it with me, Lethal Weapon 3, but it's hardly a scene-for-scene portrayal, and it doesn't matter anyway, because there's no in-game story. BEUs are supposed to be mindless, but not this
Holy shit! Chuck Norris is pissed!
So, in the end, what are we left with? A D-grade Beat-'Em-Up with bad graphics, dull levels, pain-in-the-ass enemies, no strategy, terrible music, and despite promises made on the cover, no Joe Pesci, either. I tell ya, this game really exemplifies everything movie-based games have become known for.
But you know what? For as bad as the game is, and as much as it tends to piss me off, I don't hate it. Maybe it comes from my love of bad movies, but I'm seriously glad Lethal Weapon is in my NES collection. It's sort of like that old flick The Creeping Terror, you've just got
to keep watching, or in this case, playing (haven't seen The Creeping Terror? Grab some beer and watch it, dammit!). If nothing else, the game IS playable. Unlike my arch enemy Last Action Hero, you can get somewhere in Lethal Weapon, it's just a mind-numbing experience. Unless you have beer, that is. Don't get me wrong, if I would have payed full price for this back in 1992, I would have been pissed (well, maybe not. Considering I once thought 8 Eyes was a good game, I probably would have liked LW, too), but since this cart can be had for mere dollars nowadays, it's not too offensive. As long as you have beer.
Riggs & Murtaugh deserved much better than what Ocean gave them, but it could've been worse. It's not like this is Bad Street Brawler awful, and as far as Ocean goes, they released worse games. I mean, Lethal Weapon may be bad, but it's not like it was Cool World, The Untouchables, Darkman, or Jurassic Park. Actually, no, Jurassic Park wasn't too bad. Kinda like Zelda, but with dinosaurs, except not really. Darkman did suck out loud, though.
There's Lethal Weapon, sandwiched between an actually good movie-based game, and a movie-based game that's much, much worse. Which is which? It's up to you to find out!
If you can play a bad NES game just for the entertainment value of it, I'd say go for Lethal Weapon. Mega-fans of the franchise will probably want to have a copy, too, lest they lose their Lethal Weapon superfan credentials. Plus, it's the closest thing to a Miami Vice game on the NES, I s'pose. There was also a Super Nintendo version of LW, but I don't have it, and I don't want it...
Aw, who am I kidding? I'll buy it if I come across it. Now, if you excuse me, there's only one thing that can get the taste of bad movie-based games out of my mouth:
Gunsmoke on a big-ass TV.