Polly's Konami NES Capsule Reviews
by Polly



Introduction
Digging through my collection of NES games, I happened to notice that I own a fuckton of games produced by Konami. Why? Because even back then, before all the [REDACTED]y flag-waving for companies we have today, I was a soldier in the Konami army. Anytime I saw those big silvery boxes they used to make, or even that oh-so-recognizable logo before it turned into the boring shitty one they have today, my mind had already begun associating "Konami" with "This will be a really fucking awesome game." In most cases I was right too.

What made Konami so great back then is that they had a ridiculously huge library of arcade games that they could pick and choose from to port to the home console market. More often than not, their ports ended up being bigger and better versions of the arcades they spawned from and many NES classics were born from this practice. They were one of the few companies who knew how to do action games right, and brought out some of the finest simultaneous 2 Player action games to come out of any era of gaming.

In this little article, I've decided to take some of the more noteworthy Konami releases (I own way more than I've put in this thing) and give them bite-sized capsule reviews. You're probably gonna witness quite a bit of fangirl gushing and my typical inability to write coherently, so you HAVE been warned.

On with the show!


1986


Gradius
One of the greatest shmup series ever was born in the arcade and ported fairly faithfully to the NES. Though it's definitely tinnier and a bit stripped down from its arcade bigger brother, it doesn't lack any of what makes Gradius such a great series.

All the stages from the arcade are represented here very faithfully, and all the sound effects and music made it in as well. Also included was the sometimes punishing difficulty that kicks in right around the 2nd stage. Enemies constantly swarm from all directions of the screen each bringing a sack and a half of bullets to throw at you as well. For all the action it has going on, there's hardly any slowdown, which is quite surprising. The game does suffer a bit from random flicker, and the abiliity to only carry 2 Multiples instead of 4 is a bit of a letdown, but it's still one of the more solid home conversions for the NES.

I'd played Life Force (or Salamander, which is spin-off of the Gradius series) before playing the original Gradius, so the surprising level of difficulty from an early NES game was a bit off-putting. But, as time went on, I got better and better at it, as is the story of every Gradius game ever made. It became one of my absolute favorites just because it whooped my ass so hard and made me work for that final victory.

A little trivia. Gradius is the first game to make use of the infamous Konami Code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start). The credit is often mistakenly given to Contra, but it is in fact right here where the greatest code ever made originated. Kazuhisa Hashimoto (who produced the home port of the game) put the code in because the game was too difficult for him to finish.


1987


Castlevania
A horror movie that you get to play! At least that's what they were going for. You're Simon Belmont, Vampire Slayer Extraordinaire. With whip in hand you set out to slay the evil Dracula and his evil minions once and for all.

For its time, Castlevania sported some of the best graphics out there. Backgrounds are full of detail and character and enemy sprites have decently fluid animation. And there's no way you can own an NES and not be able to recognize at least ONE of the tunes from this game. They're all fucking classic and still find their way into Castlevania games being released today.

Big evil fucking bats, mindless brain-craving zombies, and OH GOD THE FUCKING MEDUSA HEADS! All are out and fully prepared to make sure you never step foot out of Transylvania ever again. And they do one hell of a job of it. Castlevania can be nerve-wrackingly difficult for a lot of reasons. The enemies don't hit too hard, but the main problem is the game's odd fucking gravity. It seems every Belmont ever must weigh about 16 tons, because the slightest step off any ledge finds you plummetting to the bottom of the screen like a speeding fucking bullet. The NES incarnations of Castlevania never really got over this odd feature. Another problem is that enemies always seem to knock you back JUST FAR ENOUGH so that you'll fall down the pit you were trying to jump over. It really does get to feel a bit unfair at times. ESPECIALLY GOD DAMN SHIT SUCKING MEDUSA HEADS ALGHALKsfkj;af!

But for all my bitching about the difficulty, Castlevania is definitely a gem of the era. Those of us who grew up with the NES versions of Castlevania, aren't likely to even recognize the shitty RPG-wannabe easy to beat bullshit the series has become since Symphony of the Night. Get your fucking metrosexual [REDACTED]-looking ass out of my vampire slaying game. This is where it all started. You'll never play a hardcore Castlevania game like this ever again.

AND FUCKING MEDUSA HEADS!


Rush n' Attack
GOD, I love me some puns.

Originally titled Green Beret as an arcade game, Rush n' Attack is a simple 2D side scrolling STABBER! A STAB 'EM UP! You're a super elite soldier on a mission to "Destroy the enemy's secret weapon" and all you brought with you was a KNIFE! How fucking bad ass is that? A secret weapon, that could be a Sherman fuckin tank for all we know, and we're goin in with just a fucking knife. This dude gets bad ass points right off the bat. Stabbing is more fun than shooting anyway.

Rush n' Attack is a pretty good looking game. Bright vivid colors are the order for the day. Sprites have a good deal of animation (moreso than the arcade version). The music takes a less military theme that was used in the arcade game and goes for some original tunes that have easily enjoyable melodies that fit the action nicely.

The game simply plays beautifully and the level of difficulty is balanced very well and cranks up bit by bit with each new stage. It even has a swish simultaneous 2 player mode that the arcade game lacked, giving it that awesome 2 player Contra-buddy appeal.

You rush and stab your way through stages most of the time, but there are a few powerups along the way you can pick up such as pistols and bazookas. The ammunition is limited for the special weapons, but you can raise a good bit of hell with the time you're given with them. Enemies constantly rush from both sides of the screen and have plenty of ways to dispatch you. In the end, it ultimately comes down to memorization of what enemy types will be coming in where that will lead you to victory. The boss fights are very simple and pretty small in scale. Getting to them by cutting down each and every enemy in the level is the big challenge.

It's hard to find much fault with Rush n' Attack. It's a simple and fun little game that probably won't take most over 30 minute to complete. Grab a buddy and do some stabberizin!


Stinger
Stinger is the second game in the TwinBee series and the first to be released here. The series enjoyed far more success in Japan leading to very little interest in any of the other games in the series ever being released here.

Stinger is a cute 'em up. A genre of shmup that focuses less on huge warships and world destruction and more on brightly colored backgrounds and shooting cute little green pumpkins and shit. It feels very similar to the previous year's Gradius and features not only horozontally-oriented stages, but vertical shmuppage as well.

You fly your cute little ship through a bevy of brightly colored backdrops shooting down a multitude of really cute and sometimes just plain bizarre looking enemies and bosses. But don't let the fact that this is a cute 'em up fool you, because it plays just as rough as many other shmups you may have played. Enemies are constantly swarming the screen and they're quite anxious to share each and every bullet they have with you, so there won't be any time to rest that trigger finger or even keep your ship planted on one section of the screen for long. It's not manic, but even in the early stages, the game just keeps pouring the heat on.

It's tough, but those with good hand/eye coordination should be fine. God damn, though, make sure you have a turbo enabled controller at the ready because your thumb will likely fall off if you try and complete this one in one sitting without one.

And beware of flying cheerios.


Top Gun
Everyone and their mom has probably already seen The Angry Videogame Nerd's roasting of this game, so there's probably not a whole lot left for me to say about it.

Point blank: It's a turd. The first Konami turd I ever encountered. At the time, in my eyes, Konami could do no wrong. I was coming off a Contra, Jackal, Gradius, and Life Force high. How COULD they possibly fuck up at this point? This game was a bit of a sobering experience.

The bottom line is there's just not much to it. It's excruciatingly boring. It's just you, a really shitty cockpit HUD, and that hoover sound that's supposed to be the sound of your jet flying through the air. You don't have to do much in this game at all. You can aim up, down, left, and right to take out oncoming enemies, but there's almost no point. They're hardly threatening. The only challenging feat is trying to land after missions or refuel during. The landing and refuelling sequences are just fuckretarded.

"UP! UP! RIGHT! RIGHT! SPEED DOWN! RIGHT! RIGHT! SPEED UP!" OH GOD JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!

The only decent thing about this game is that it features a pretty good 8-bit version of the Top Gun theme and that's about it.

PS: The movie fucking sucked.


1988


1988 proved to be a huge year for Konami. Many of the true gems of the NES-era came from Konami's 1988 catalog and are fondly remembered by many like me who are fast-paced action junkies.


Contra
What can I say? This is my obsession. This is where it all started. Motherfuckin' Contra. I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit that I'm a ridiculous Contra fangirl. I love the series to death. Many Contra games, good and bad, have come and gone throughout the years, but this is where it started.

What makes Contra so significant? What is it that puts this one game near the top of so many "best game ever" lists? what is it that still has us playing nearly 20 years later? It's the ridiculous amount of fun it is to mow down hordes of alien shit suckers with all the firepower you're given and how fun and simple it is to do.

The Contra formula is simple. Run right, shoot shit to make it explode, and know when to cover your own ass when the big nasties start fighting back. It's the most basic of all concepts. By no means pioneered by Contra, but Contra took it and made something special out of it.

Many will tell you of the times they spent in 2 Player Mode with their friends trying to put an end to Red Falcon's reign of terror. How they'd squabble over who got the next Spread Gun drop, yelling at them to slow down while you make your way up the waterfall level racing to not get left behind, or why that no-good motherfucker stole one of your lives after losing his last one. The co-op play is a huge part of what's made the Contra name as famous as it is today. It's not that the games aren't fun when playing alone, believe me they are. I've spent many hours with many of them by my lonesome and enjoyed every second of it. But there really is something completely fuckawesome when you have a Contra buddy. I've had a Contra buddy that I regularly play old and new Contra games with since '95 and it's always a blast.

The NES version isn't an exact port of the arcade game. It's more of an adaptation. Weapons, physics, bosses, everything just feels different and a hell of a lot more tight on the NES. The NES version also has the added benefit of having 3 more complete stages that the arcade didn't as well.

A bit of a bummer is that the Japanese version is a bit better. In Japan, developers were allowed to use their own cusom mappers to create better looking games, however this practice was not allowed in other territories. Contra's Japanese version looks a hell of a lot better than ours. It features loads of detail in the backgrounds including animation of trees and waterfalls and little weather effects for areas like the Snow Field. It also featured a storyline that unfolded bit by bit between stages and a map that showed you where you were. The Japanese version also seems a bit harder than other versions as well, but not by much. I think enemies fire more frequently. It's always been the easiest game in the series. Anyone can blow through it in less than 20 minutes if they're even somewhat good even without the infamous 30 life code.

All that and I didn't even mention the kick-fucking-ass soundtrack the game has. Everyone knows the tunes here, so I shouldn't even have to. If you've played NES, you've played Contra. I don't consider it the best the series has to offer (I prefer Super C), but it's by no means any less important.

Seriously, you saw that kinda gushing coming from a 800 miles away, didn't you?


Metal Gear
Metal Gear was released under Konami's "Ultra" label. Back in the day, for whatever dumbfuck reason, Nintendo would not allow any third-party developer to release more than five games in one year. So Konami created the Ultra Games label and were able to release 10 or so games a year.

Looking back, when you think of what Metal Gear has become now, it's really easy to see that Metal Gear for NES isn't really that great of a game. In fact, in a lot of areas and for a lot of reasons, you could call it downright bad. Whether it's the clunky controls, the famously horrible translation, or the spotty enemy detection, it's easy to see there's a lot wrong here. Even Kojima doesn't acknowledge it, as he also had no hand in making this version. But back in the day, this WAS Metal Gear to us. We didn't know about a superior version that'd been released on some obscure computer in Japan a year or so earlier. And for the time it was something hugely different from what we were seeing in videogames. So, we stuck with it becuase of that originality and just went along our merry way regardless of the blaring flaws.

Metal Gear was sorta like deadly hide and seek. A lot of us didn't quite understand that at first and we became overly fucking familiar with Mr. Game Over Screen because we'd played waaaaay too much fuckin' Contra. Once we figured it out though, we discovered a whole new kind of intensity that could come with the videogame experience. Trying to stay hidden or time your run to the next screen while the guard wasn't looking became little adventures in trial and error. When we finally got our gun and silencer, then it was fuckin on! Anyone that'd spotted us earlier was gonna get a head full of lead for their cruelty toward the noobie. The vast inventory of doo-dads and weapons you accumulated over the course of the game was quite neat at the time as well. Almost made you feel like fuckin James Bond or some shit.

The game's chock full of disappointments when you look back now (no fucking Metal Gear at the end? WHAT? THE GAME IS CALLED METAL GEAR!!!) and there's no way it's a even close to a 5-sock game on its own, but the feeling it gave me at the time, like I was playing something really different and important, certainly does give it another point or two for being a scruffy rebel.


Track and Field II
Reviewed by The Hutch last year as part of NES Week Part Deux.

Track and Field II is a collection of mini-games based on Olympic competitions. Bottom line is that some work, but most don't. A lot of the time you know exactly what you're supposed to do, but with how the game's set up it can be ridiculously difficult to execute the actions. A lot of the "skill" comes down to how fast you can mash the shit out of the A Button before pressing the B button at VERY PRECISE times in order to make something work. The game is BRUTAL with timing and it can take you forever to figure out just when you're supposed to press the B Button to make your guy pole vault or perform a long jump. Other events like the High Dive and Horizonal Bar don't seem to make much sense at all and you'll probably end up mashing A and B and hoping you pull off something neat to impress the judges.

There's fun to be had here, but you really have to dig for it. Fencing and Tae Kwon Do can be a good 20 minutes of fun with a friend, and the special events like Hang Gliding (OH FUCK YEAH HANG GLIDING, I LOVE THAT SHIT) and Gun Shooting require you to finish at least one day of Olympics Mode in order to be able to play. In the end, I never really found it all that worth it.


Jackal
Yet another military-themed shooter. This one, from a top down perspective, has you controlling a cute little jeep that pootles along with a gun turrent that always fires forward and the ability to throw grenades in 8 directions. Konami struck gold once again with the ability to bring along a friend for some highly destructive 2 player simultaneous action.

As you drive your pootling little jeep along (no, really as it moves it bobs up and down...it's too cute!) you'll be assaulted from all sides of the screen by soldiers, stationary gun turrets, and a huge variety of enemy vehicles coming from the land, air, and water. With your normal gun only able to shoot forward, the game forces you to always get yourself into a strategic position to overcome each set of obstacles. Grenades are a bit slow and unreliable in a pinch, but they're upgradeable to rockets which travel much faster and with a couple more upgrades have a 4-way fragmentation effect that helps in dealing with enemies who are spread out and have you pinned down with fire. There are only six stages, but they're varied and long enough to keep you entertained and the boss encounters are tough as nails, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat trying to maneuver through the onslaught of enemy vehicles and fire while trying to destroy the main target.

Jackal looks and sounds great. All stages have their own unique look and theme and enemy vehicles and bosses sport a good bit detail. Again, a lot of the stage tunes will probably recognizable to anyone who's played an NES and they're just as rockin as those you'd find in Contra and some of Konami's later NES efforts.

Jackal is another "great because it's simple" game. It's challenging yet fair and completely fun whether you're playing by yourself or with a friend. A game no NES collection should be without.


Life Force
Originally released as Salamander in Japan, Life Force is a spin-off of the Gradius series. Gameplay is a bit less methodical than Gradius, but far more manic in terms of enemy and bullet counts on screen at any given time. It features the same power-up system from Gradius and many of the stages share the same themes (a plant stage, an organ stage, a fire stage) and shares many musical pieces as well.

You guessed it! Simultaneous 2-Player action once again! Gradius with 2 players, now that's fuckawesome win right there. You're probably gonna need it too. Life Force starts out with a deceptively easy first stage but the next five stages are just as brutal and gruelling as any of the later installments that the Gradius series has to offer. Tons of enemies, bullets everywhere, and dangerous terrain all out to wreck your poor Vic Viper.

As mentioned, Life Force (all the Salamander games for that matter) are a lot more manic than Gradius. In Gradius, you typically have to think before you move and take your shots wisely. Life Force keeps you covered with enemies from all sides and there's rarely any time to stop and catch a breather (unless you pause the game, durp) because every pixel of the screen can be considered dangerous territory. Enemies are fast and furious and stages scroll much faster than those of its parent series. Things are made a bit more bearable by the fact that your ship auto-respawns when you die almost eliminating the dreaded Gradius "lose one life and say fuck it" syndrome. Life Force also mixes things up a bit with the inclusion of overhead vertically scrolling stages. These bits of the game seem even harder than the horizontal stages because enemies and bullets are even more plentiful here and your ship appears bigger adding even more challenge to the game.

For everything Life Force throws at you, it does a damn good job of keeping up with the action. The backgrounds and sprites contain a good bit of detail, so it's surprising that the game has nary a bit of slowdown even in hugely congested areas. It had the typical NES flicker here and there, but it's something you just got used to over the course of being an NES gamer.

Life Force is yet another addition to the "great because it's simple" series of games Konami had a habit of churning out on the NES. Probably the best 2 Player shmup action you'll find on the NES.


Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Another one that The Angry Videogame Nerd has already hit the nail on the head with. So, I'll just say a few things about the game and we'll be on our merry fucking way.

Simon's Quest is basically the Zelda II of the Castlevania series. It ventured out and tried to do a bulk of what made the first game work differently. Problem here is, Simon's Quest fucking failed at every little bit of it. It all looked good on paper, but the execution is sub-sub-par. You end up with an utterly boring and often frustrating game that just sucks out fucking loud.

Simon's Quest looks great and Konami once again offered up an impressive soundtrack, but everything else is completely screwed up. God...where to begin... ya know what? Fuck it, just go just go watch this.


1989


The Adventures of Bayou Billy
Somebody get this game some fucking medication because it has no God damn idea what the hell it wants to be. There's beat 'em up stages and driving stages that you play with a gamepad and then there's shooting levels where you can (and you'd fucking better) use the Zapper.

Konami hyped the unholy hell out of this game. You'd think it was the second coming of Jesus with how much hot air they blew out about this game. It was supposed to be the "be all, end all" of videogames, but it turned out being a rancid turd.

Nothing about this game feels right at all. They spent so much time trying to make it so many things that it doesn't do any of the things it's trying to do right. The beat 'em up stages are supposed to mimic Double Dragon, but the grotesquely stiff controls make it too fucking hard to line up and beat on enemies. Not only that, but enemies don't play fair at all. They often just swarm you and deliver the fucking beat down and that's the end of the fucking story. I don't usually complain about a game's difficulty, but they really went out of their way to fuck over the player in this game. It's simply not fair. Enemies are just too fast and even when you do attack them, the game usually disregards that fact and lets the enemy counter-attack you into oblivion.

The driving and shooting sections of the game are equally stupid and unfair. I've only actually made it to these segments once. After making it to another beat 'em up stage, I tossed the gamepad into the floor and just said fuck it. I couldn't take anymore.

While I can respect what they were trying to do by having a variety of gameplay modes, the whole package just sucks shit and isn't developed enough to be worth anyone's time.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Yeesh, yet another one the Nerd has already hit. You know this can't possibly end well...

Alright, let's just get the biggest problem out of the way first. This game has almost NOTHING TO DO AT ALL with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sure, it's got some turtle sprites, a face graphics or two for other characters like Splinter and April, but nothing here at all makes me feel like I'm actually playing a game based on TMNT. I think that's a pretty fucking important part of making a game based on a beloved license. Without anything reminding me that I'm supposed to be playing a bad-ass TMNT game, this just feels like some shitty platformer Konami slapped together (under the Ultra label) that wasn't good enough to release on its own, and they just ganked a license and modified it so that you were playing as turtles instead of whatever the fuck they had in mind to begin with. For fuck's sake, the Turtles theme song is nowhere to be heard in this game! What the FUCK?

For the most part, the game plays like ass. The controls are too damn loose, so most of the time you'll end up falling into that bed of spikes or down the hole. And if the controls don't get you, the ridiculous amount of enemies on screen will make extra sure that you lose that turtle by bumping you into the pits themselves. The only character worth a good God damn is Donatello. He's the only one with a reach good enough to take care of enemies in front of you. Everyone else usually just ends up soaking up damage because their weapons don't have enough range and the hit detection blows.

The game looks alrigh for 1988, I suppose. The turtles have a little more than average animation to their movement and attacks, but the amount of slowdown and flicker completely ruin it. The soundtrack is good too. There are more than a few good and memorable tunes here, but once again nothing at all to do with TMNT. How they could neglect the theme song or even replayed elements of it is just completely beyond me.

The bottom line is this was such a shit-sucking disappointment for me. I'm glad I only borrowed it from a friend instead of getting it as a gift or saving up and buying it myself. I still feel like a whore for buying it years later, though.

Also, check out decoy octopus' original review for NES Week Part Deux!


1990


Super C
I think we all know what to expect here. I won't blame you one bit if you scroll down past the blatant fangirl ramblings. Go on!

A lot of folks claim Contra to be one of the best NES games ever. It's very rarely that I ever see Super C on those lists as well. It's almost like it doesn't exist to some people. I can't really figure out why it shouldn't, because it's got everything that made the original so great and then some. Maybe it's because the difficulty took a bit of a step up or the lack of a Konami code to grant them 30 lives (though a 10-life code exists), I dunno. It just always kinda puzzled me as to why a lot of people I've talked to either never played it or just don't like it, because it really is more of the same on a bigger level.

Super C's backgrounds and level design are head and shoulders above the original's. This time we also got all the background animation and detail from the Japanese version, though it didn't use a special mapper. The whole game just has a nice slick detailed look to it making each new level you get to exciting. The soundtrack took a bit of a different route this time as well, featuring stage themes that were more upbeat and driving but losing none of the memorable melodies that made the first game's soundtrack so great.

Super C's pace is a bit more frantic than the original game's. Enemies are constantly rushing you from both sides of the screen. They fire more often and the bullets are much faster. It was quite a disorienting experience at first. I didn't know about how broken the flame gun was, so believe me, this game was no walk in the park. Contra had a bit more of a relaxed pace, and other than stationary turrets and snipers, normal running enemies didn't start firing at you until stage 5. Super C's difficulty seems to kinda pick up where Contra's Stage 8 left off and ramps up a teensy bit with each level. It gets tough, but the difficulty ramp from stage to stage is pretty fair and balanced.

It's one of my favorite games of all time, what the hell else do I say about it?


Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Konami's letter of love and apology to the fans they shit on with Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.

Castlevania III abandons all the crappy RPG elements that they tried to force into the previous game, but still manages to expand upon the first game's ideas and merits, creating a rich and very fulfilling gameplay experience. Dracula's Curse is probably one of the biggest NES games ever made. Not in terms of popularity, because I'm not sure it was really all that popular at the time. I'm referring to how big the game actually is, as in how much shit they packed into the cart.

Firstly, the game features alternate routes that the player can choose from to determine how they ultimately end up at Dracula's castle. After clearing certain stages, you might be presented with the choice of branching paths which lead you through these different routes. You'd better choose wisely, as each route contains their own unique stages and challenges to overcome. Each route takes you through nine or ten stages total, but when added up, all the paths contain a total of fifteen stages in the entire game. That's quite a big number of unique areas to go through for an NES game, and considering that every stage is fairly long and challenging, you're gonna be very busy for quite a while.

Castlevania III also introduces the idea of playing as characters OTHER than Trevor Belmont. This game features three other characters that you can meet along the way. They each have their own unique abilities and set of strengths and weaknesses that add a whole slew of new ideas to a formula that could be considered a bit old at even at the time of the game's release. The only drawbacks are that you can only bring one companion with you at a time, and that both Trevor and your guest share the same lifebar. This new cast of characters also brings to the table the idea of multiple endings. Depending on who you have with you (or if you're still flying solo), the ending of the game is different. That was some pretty awesome shit at the time.

Dracula's Curse is likely the best looking game on the NES. I've yet to play a game that contained backgrounds and sprites that look any better. Once again, the Japanese version of the game looks superior because it used special mapper chip to add extra effects to backgrounds that were excluded from our version because Nintendo is a dick. The soundtrack suffers the same fate, as the Japanese version contained yet another microprocessor that added extra channels to simulate a string section for the background music. The US version's music still sounds great, but it really lacks the "oomph!" that the Japanese version's contains.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is simply one of the greatest NES games ever made. It's a definite must have. It's one of those rare instances where everything feels perfect. Once again, you'll never see Konami dare to release a new Castlevania game as challenging or ballsy as this one was.


TMNT II: The Arcade Game
Yeah, now THIS is what the fuck I'm talking about! THIS is a Turtles game!

Shortly after Konami released the pile of puke and diarrhea that was the original NES Turtles game, they released another Turtles game in the arcade. This was a much better game because it actually had something to do with the license. Not only that but it featured the ability to play four players! FOUR PLAYERS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ALL FOUR TURTLES AT ONCE? There weren't enough adjectives in the world to describe how fucking cool that was back then. I remember dumping quite a few quarters into that machine with friends. It was a fun little side scrolling beat-em-up that was simple and easy to play, and when they announced that shit was being ported to NES, well you can bet a lot of us got pretty fucking excited.

And we had pretty good reason to be. Konami did a pretty damn good job of smooshing down an arcade game of the original's calibur into an 8-bit NES cart. All the original stages are here (plus 2 brand new stages and bosses that weren't in the arcade game at all), all four turtles, all the music, and most of the moves were compacted down and shoved into a big ugly grey cart and delivered to us on a pizza platter. Did we eat it up? Well, yeah!

Typically, when Konami brought arcade games home they weren't exact mirrors of what you'd played before. They usually did adaptations which increased games' lengths, tweaked the difficulty, or just completely changed everything altogether. TMNT II pretty much got the entire treatment.

First thing to go was the four player mode. It's a bit of a disappointment, but for a console with only 2 gamepad inputs (and only a peripheral that offered four) what can you expect? It didn't hurt the game at all, to be honest. Two Player mode is still damn good fun. Second thing to go were all the voice samples, which is a tad puzzling since Konami had been doing voice work in their games for a while. Still not big loss, though. Lastly, we lost a good bit of the extra attack animations and the throw attack that was in the arcade game. They'd have been nice to have, but the cart was likely bursting at the seams by the time they were finished.

But for all they took out, they gave a bit back. The NES version received two completely new stages and bosses to increase the overall number of stages from eight to ten. Generous of them, but in a way it sorta hurts the game overall. Every stage in the game can last anywhere from 6-10 minutes depending on how fast you can mop up all the Foot Soldiers. This really gets to start feeling tedious about 5-6 stages in as Foot Soldiers are the only damn things you're killing aside from mousers and the occasional boss battle. Seriously, the opening stage is a burning apartment building and the only place you seem to be fighting in is the main hall. It's the longest fucking hall built in human history! The arcade's stages were just about the right length, so there wasn't much reason to go make every stage as ridiculously long as possible just for the sake of having a longer game.

TMNT II is really more fun with another person than it is by yourself. A bit of a rarity for a Konami game, but that's just how it is. Konami clearly put a lot of effort into making sure the game looked, sounded, and played as close to the arcade game as possible, but the long levels and boring enemy color swaps just aren't enough. It's too tedious to appreciate when playing alone, and even with another player, you both may end up tired of the same ol' same ol' long before you reach the Technodrome.


Snake's Revenge
Snake's Revenge originally had a subtitle. The complete game title was: Snake's Revenge: Shit. I'm not kidding.

It seems Konami went desperately out of their way to show us exactly how to NOT make a Metal Gear. I find it even more insulting that Konami claimed the game was made with the Western audience in mind since the first game sold about a million copies here. Yeah, thanks a fucking lot for that. Such wonderful gifts you bestow upon me. How should I thank you? My fucking crowbar in your eyesocket.

Let me give you just one clue about how fucking bad this game is. IT WAS NEVER EVEN RELEASED IN JAPAN, YET IT WAS DEVELOPED THERE! It was so bad, they didn't want the shit stinking up their own country and didn't give a fuck how much they may or may not have lost in making it, they just didn't want it. Now, rumors say that this game was Kojima's inspiration for going ahead and creating a legitimate Metal Gear 2 and it's one I could seriously believe, because if someone made something based on one of my original works and it was this bad, I'd be hunting heads and I'd certianly want to try and redeem myself. It sickens me that we may have to actually thank this game for something.

Anyway, what the fuck's wrong with it, right? Well, let's just try everything.

Firstly, you can't even call this a stealth game. Though primitive and at times spotty, at least the first game still managed to get that right. This game tries to make you think it's a stealth game, but no matter what you do or where you try and hide yourself, enemies are always going to see you. This leads to my other problem with the game. The shitty fucking controls.

Snake can only move and shoot in 4 directions. This means controls are stiff and it's almost impossible to line up and try to take a shot at an enemy. What's really unfair about this is that enemies can shoot at you from ANY angle, yet you're stuck with simple up, down, left, and right. Five or six hits and you're dead and you get to start all over! Awesome!

Even more shitty fun comes when the game decides to throw the side-scrolling bits at you. Boy oh boy! Side scrolling bits! Just like Mario used to make! They're either retardedly simple or ridiculously unfair. It's too damn hard to stay hidden, so if you're caught, you're pretty much fucked.

I won't be completely unfair and blast the storyline because of the fun that the writers decided to have with the character profiles in the instruction manual. None of the nonsense in the manual appears in game, so all the over the top criticizing you hear most people talk about the story is probably just based on something they read at another site mocking how bad the story is. Not saying the story is any good, but whatever.

Snake's Revenge just isn't fun. It's not fun because the stealth element is almost completely gutted and the controls make trying to do anything so God damn frustrating. There are one or two points in the game that really weren't all that bad to play through, and I'll give credit to the fairly decent soundtrack, but unless you're an idiot completist/collector like myself, this game isn't anything you need to go out of your way to try to put in your collection. You're better off picking up Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence for PS2 and playing the originals there.

1991


The year of the licensed game it would seem. Toward the end of the NES' lifespan, Konami mostly toiled away at licensing some really obscure shit and making somewhat decent games out of it. Zen: The Intergalactic Ninja? What the fuck is that? Rollergames? Who would want a game based on that shit? I don't own them yet, but I will someday!


Bucky O'Hare
As reviewed during NES Week Part Deux.

Konami's answer to Capcom's Mega Man? Perhaps, but not quite as good, memroable, or thought out.

If this was a game for the kids who enjoyed the almost little-known 13 episode cartoon, then they missed the fuckin mark JUST A LITTLE. This really isn't a game for the kiddies by any means based on the difficulty alone. It asks nothing but perfection on the part of the player and will continually punish you with one hit kills (even though you get a huge lifebar) until you manage that level of perfection required to play this game. You're allowed to play the initial four stages in any order you wish...or so it would seem. In actuality, you HAVE to finish certain levels before you try others, because you need to have another character who has a special ability needed to overcome the obstacles in another.

The players who love the kind of challenge that this game provides will probably find something to like here. It does look good and sound good, but you'd be better off playing the games that this game nicked ideas off of.

The full review covers everything in better detail.


Monster In My Pocket
How's that for just plain out there licensing? Anyone remember Monster in my Pocket at all? Anyone even know what the fuck it is in the first place? Ah well, who cares so long as it made for a somewhat decent game.

Like most Konami licensed games, this one's an action platformer with the added benefit of having some hawt 2 Player simultaneous action. You play as either Dracula or Frankenstein, only with more generic names, because apparently they couldn't use those for some reason. The catch is, you're little toys (I think), and you're battling other little toys, and everything in the world around you is scaled to represent that. For instance, in the first stage you'll make your way down a huge staircase that probably wouldn't take more than 3 seconds to traverse in a Castlevania game, but given your size here, it's almost an entire stage and each stair is almost the size of the screen as you make your way down toward the basement. Or in the second stage as you make your way through an entire kitchen, or in the third stage as you're being chased down the street by giant golf balls...okay you get the point. The whole you're tiny in a huge world thing is pretty cool.

Monster in my Pocket features some pretty damn slick sprite work. The main characters' running, jumping, and attacking animations are probably some of the smoothest I've seen on the NES and enemies are usually animated just as well. A big problem here though, is flicker. There's a metric fuckton of it when you get 4 or more enemies on screen at once. When all sprites on screen begin flickering in and out they look like a jumbled mess and you can easily lose track of your guy with all the commotion. It probably goes without saying that the background work is pretty solid here too. The scale of the world around you is really a fun thing to see in action. More often than not, every area of the game is 2-3 screens high and there are various different paths you can take through each room. Another cool nod to the scale of things that surround you. Platforming off a piece of cheese onto a lit stove is just damn neat! Battling an ice breathing whatever the fuck he is inside of a refrigerator? Come on. Bad. Ass. There's enough variety in both the enemies and your environments to make all of the game's seven stages not seem as hum-drum and tedious as the game itself really is.

There's just not enough variety of gameplay in Monster in my Pocket to really make it stand out. It's definitely fun for two people but by yourself, you'll probably be reaching for the power button much sooner. The problem is, you're stuck with only playing as Dracula and Frankenstein and there's no difference in how they attack at all. it's just the same punch, power wave move through the entire game. There are a couple of other moves that can only be performed in specific places, such as a Sonic The Hedgehog-esque invincible dash if you're running down a sharp ramped area, but there's just not enough of things like that or neat powerups you can grab to do different attacks to keep things interesting.

It's definitely a fun game, but just like a man, it just lacks any kind of staying power.


Tiny Toon Adventures
I guess this license isn't as obscure as some of the others Konami grabbed. Konami actually managed to do a good game or two with the license as well, specifically the Genesis game whose subtitle I can't quite remember at the moment. All the Tiny Toon games managed to contain a lot of the cartoon's craziness and characters, so they at least had a grasp on the source material. But did they make a good game? Eh, somewhat.

Fallout voiced his opinion during NES Week Part Deux, and for the most part, I agree with a lot of what he said.

This game took the simple run and jump platformer route. You'll notice more than a few passing instances of Super Mario Bros. 3 inspiration in terms of level design as well. You run along jumping over pits and onto enemies' heads to kill them and that's about the entire jist of it. Every stage includes a boss that attacks in patterns you have to memorize, but for the most part, they're dealt with using the ol' jump on their head 3 times method.

As Fallout mentioned through much of his review, this game is fucking HARD. I mean, retardedly hard, especially given the audience that it was targeted for. Everything can kill you in one hit - two if you have the heart powerup. And when you die, there are no checkpoints, so it's back to the start of the entire stage to try again. Even if you make it to the boss room, you get to do it all over again. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see many kids having much fun with that.

For all my bitching, though, there are some good points. Tiny Toon Adventures does look and sound great and its whole presentation is very in tune with the show. Having extra characters at your disposal and their various special abilities can keep things interesting for a while as well. Though the game is ridiculously hard, I can't really call it cheap. The obstacles you have to overcome can be legitimately conquered with the right amount of patience, so if you got a thing for games that'll challenge you to play your best, look right here.

It's not bad and it's not good. If you like a good challenge, you'll probably find a good bit of fun here, but a lot of it simply feels too phoned in and plucked directly from Super Mario Bros. to really stand on its own as a quality game.


1992


TMNT III: The Manhattan Project
When announcement came of another TMNT game for the NES, a lot of us probably figured it was likely to be that brand new Turtles in Time arcade game. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project was actually a brand new game (sorta) developed for the NES featuring a little more than TMNT II had to offer.

TMNT III runs in what's basically the TMNT II engine, only gameplay has a bit of a faster pace to it this time around. A very welcome addition. There is also a much better variety of backgrounds for every stage and a few more enemy types that help keep things from getting as dull as they could in TMNT II. Another welcome addition to the game is that Turtle has their own unique special move you can activate by pressing A+B, which will usually mow down normal fodder enemies with one hit and puts quite a hurt on boss enemies. The price for activating the move is one little bar of your current lifebar, which hekps keep things balanced.

Stages don't tend to drone on and on and on like they did in TMNT II as well. They're still not quite as short as I'd like them to be, but the backgrounds are varied, and combat is fluid enough to keep gameplay sessions from hitting the dreaded "I'd rather take a nap" territory. Enemy bosses still feel about as stiff and cheap as they did in TMNT II and force you to rely on your special moves a lot in order to attack the enemy and evade them without incurring their wrath. You'll be jump kicking a lot as well, which still has about a 50% chance of you getting hit by whatever lame anti-air attack the enemy has been programmed with. Like TMNT II, it's possible to beat them, but it still doesn't feel like they were built for a fair fight most of the time.

What can I really say other than that it's basically the same game as TMNT II, but slightly better?


Contra Force
What a shitty way to have to end this...






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