RetroReview : The NES January Classic Part 4
Dateline 29th January 2012
As the cold weather begins to creep in, what better way to warm your hands than on a veritable raging fire of hot NES games. This is the final part of the NES January Classic 2012 and there are still one or two surprises for Retrobear to unearth…..
And now the end is near, and we reach, the final few-games-of-the-NES-January-classic. The observant amongst you will notice that once again I have failed to go for the more obvious titles – those being anything with Mario and Zelda in the title, Metroid, Castlevania etc. That is purely because rather than play games that people have played over and over again and been reviewed to shit by literally everyone running their own site and blog, I just want to be a little different.
That’s not to say I won’t play and review them in the future though………….maybe.
SNOOPY’S SILLY SPORTS SPECTACULAR – I love the Peanuts cartoon and think Snoopy is one of the best cartoon characters ever drawn, but this game really is an absolute waste of a licence. There are only 6 sports to choose from – though the events are suitably bonkers such as boot throwing, sack racing and a fight on a canoe – and you only get to compete against Snoopy’s brother Spike. There is no real long term appeal and while the graphics are nicely drawn, there is none of the humour of the cartoon here. The game was remade with Donald Duck for the Japanese market but I doubt that would have made much difference. A very limited game with very limited appeal, and that’s from a Snoopy fan.
THUNDERBIRDS – Another great show I remember from my early days sat in front of the TV on Sunday lunchtimes. Tuned in to the old ATV channel, waiting for University Challenge to finish before Thunderbirds started and then Benson came on. Ah the memories…….anyway enough recollecting. This is a rather disappointing take on the legendary TV series where, rather than turn it into yet another platform tie in, Thunderbirds is turned into a vertical scrolling shoot em up. I’m sorry but I don’t remember too much aerial combat from the TV series. It’s like 1942, 1943, Flying Shark, Xevious etc etc, just with all the regular Thunderbird vehicles in place. It looks the part, sounds OK and the introduction is great, but the game is just lumbered with dull gameplay. It’s also quite hard which, coupled with the boredom setting in, makes for a rather unsatisfactory experience. Thunderbirds are most definitely not Go.
UNTOUCHABLES, THE – I have briefly touched on this game before but it is safe to say it’s one of the more impressive move tie-ins of it’s day. Based on the 1987 film of the same name – and released 4 years later on the NES – you play Elliot Ness doing his best to shut down Al Capone’s various rackets before bringing the man himself to justice. Along the way you take part in 3D street shooting sections – ducking behind a wall and popping out to shoot bad guys in the alleyway windows – and Operation Wolf side scrolling games, gunning down gangsters as you go. It’s a fun, if samey, package that complements the film well. Definitely one to check out.
VOLLEYBALL – Ah yes volleyball. The game with very little following outside of Brazil, China and Cuba – unless we are talking about Beach Volleyball in which case everyone is an expert when it comes to bikini clad women knocking a ball over a net (or tight shorted men for all you female retro gaming fans out there). There aren’t all that many volleyball games out there and this one from 1987 may be one of the best. It does have control issues. You can never tell which players you are controlling due to the random selection method chosen by the computer. It’s all a bit dated looking too and to be honest unless you are a volleyball nut, it’s not going to appeal to you. If you are looking for something different it might be worth a look but you won’t get too much playing time out of this one.
WOLVERINE – Possibly the coolest Super Hero of them all is given the duff treatment in yet another crappy tie in game. Yep it’s our old friend the bog standard platform game, involving inch perfect jumps, enemies shooting from you from off screen, obscure pick ups (for increased health collect hamburgers !) and a total waste of a main character. I personally could not find anything redeeming about this game at all. Yes it does feature other X-Men related characters – boss battles against Magneto and Sabretooth and assistance from Psylocke and Havoc amongst others – but the chances are you’ll be so fed up with this waste of space that you simply won’t care. I know I didn’t and I love comic books.
XEVIOUS – Looking amazingly dated now, Xevious is still a pretty good blast today and was even updated a while back and given the New Gen makeover. It’s not surprising that it looks dated, as the original goes back to 1982 and this release was from 1988. To say it is one of the most famous arcade games in history is doing it an immense injustice. It’s still a very credible blaster today, allowing you to target oncoming enemies with one fire button and bombing ground enemies with the other. If you are clever enough, because of the ship’s ability to move up and down the screen, you might be able to progress through the levels without shooting at anything and just avoiding enemies. Xevious is one of those games that must be played to appreciate how far gaming has come and where it’s roots come from. There are better examples around, but none with the rich history that Xevious has.
YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES, THE – Based on the short lived TV series from George Lucas, thanks for that George, this is yet another depressingly awful platform game which borders on the lines of dreadful. Young Indiana looks like a cross between Bret Hart and Michael Jackson. The weapons you pick up – including Indy’s trademark hat, yes a hat is a power up of sorts – are taken away when you get hit by enemies. The bullets from the guns tend to blend into the background. Disposing of enemies on horseback means you get charged by the horse which can’t be killed and, finally, beware of cactuses that look like background objects but aren’t – even though they are placed next to wheels which are background objects. The game might get better as it goes along but frankly I couldn’t care less. Playing this for less than 30 minutes was enough for me and there is no desire to go any further with it. Thanks again George.
ZANAC – Another ancient shoot em up, though this is one that was exclusively for the home market rather than arcades. There are a couple of really impressive things about Zanac. The fact you can shoot your weapons at all angles and not just straight ahead. The waves of enemy attackers are vast, with no visible slowdown on-screen so the whole thing moves at a fair lick. It is simple enough to encourage progression whilst remaining a challenge. Sadly the last two things are what goes against Zanac. The difficulty curve will be too steep for some and the sheer speed and volume of enemies is just overwhelming. Quick reflexes and patience are most definitely required, but Zanac is still a quality shooter for fans of the genre.
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