Video Game Review: Gyruss (NES)

Gyruss was a game that could’ve easily been tweaked a wee bit and made to fit within the larger Gradius universe. While those games are made by Konami and this is made by Ultra, you might not know that Ultra was just an imprint under the Konami umbrella and that the arcade version of this game had Konami all over it. The main reason for Ultra’s existence was due to some weird laws regarding licensing in North America.

Anyway, this has a Gradius feel to it, even though the gameplay style is much different.

You play as a spaceship and shoot your way through waves of enemies, progressing from stage to stage. It’s pretty simple and straightforward.

The big difference between this and the more popular side scrollers like the Gradius series is that you control the ship from a first-person point of view, as you movie the ship around the edge of the screen on a 360 degree circular rail.

While the perspective is initially cool and works well in the original arcade version of the game, it makes the controls in the NES port somewhat problematic due to the limitations of the D-pad. It’s mostly just clunky and doesn’t respond as well as you need it to.

Additionally, the game is initially fun but it gets really repetitive. Where the Gradius games are pretty much simple side scrolling shooters, they at least have really good level design and environmental changes that make the stages interesting. Gyruss, on the other hand, just has you starring at a black screen that you roll around while shooting in one small area of the screen.

This is a game that started with a cool idea but had poor, unimaginative execution, especially on the NES port. It just doesn’t work well and there are much better games within this genre.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other spacecraft action shooters for the NES.

Video Game Review: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (NES)

I have never played this game, as it came out at the end of the original Nintendo era and I had moved on to Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it, anyway, as I was into better graphics, better sound and hadn’t had good experiences with other Indiana Jones games for the NES.

Playing it now, this is the best Indiana Jones game on the NES console. It’s actually kind of fun and it has better controls and overall mechanics than the other games.

Now the controls can still be wonky and frustrating but as bad as the other games were, this is actually a step up.

Additionally, there is more than one gameplay mode. You do the standard side scrolling action stuff but you also get to fly a plane and drive a motorcycle. There are also cool locations. I enjoyed the train level, as you punch and whip your way through baddies on a train moving through the European countryside.

For those familiar with the G.I. Joe games released on the NES, this has a similar gameplay style on most levels.

The game is rather difficult, however, especially some of the later boss battles, as the amount of damage you can take is pretty minimal.

Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by the game and, for the most part, like it.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other NES Indiana Jones games, as well as the NES G.I. Joe titles.

Video Game Review: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Taito Version (NES)

Having recently revisited the original Nintendo port of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I felt the urge to revisit the first version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Yes, I said first version, as there was also a second game released by another developer a few years later.

I don’t actually remember playing the one that was made by Ubisoft but I distinctly remember this Taito game and how frustrating it was.

Playing it now, it’s still frustrating and maybe even more so.

The controls are shit. Total shit. The in-game mechanics are wonky and terrible. Controlling Indiana Jones is like controlling an elderly person with a walker that can do awkward, seldomly landing, Taekwondo kicks.

The game itself is fairly easy but the stage with the Austrian castle is one of the worst designed and laid out levels of the 8-bit era. It’s a confusing clusterfuck where if you don’t know where you need to go, which you won’t, you just get your ass destroyed by Nazi soldiers waiting behind just about every door. It’s like a maze that punches you in the face at every turn, whether you take the right one or the wrong one.

Some of the levels could have been cool if this were made by better designers. The film it’s based on is one of the greatest adventure movies of all-time and provides a great number of action sequences that could’ve made for a really awesome game.

Instead, we got this clunky bag of shit.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: pooping… but the runny, messy, unpleasant kind.

Video Game Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (NES)

This game is absolute torture. Still, I like playing it and it’s fun up to a certain point.

It’s absurdly difficult though, as the gameplay mechanics are horrendous and the jump and attack buttons are the opposite of what they should be. So often times, my muscle memory would kill me because I’d go to attack and instead, jump right into some f’n lava!

Also, I can understand bullets being limited… but swords? Every time you use your sword, you lose one and have to keep collecting more sword icons, so that you at least have enough to slay the nine dozen lava beasts that you need as stepping stones to cross the overabundance of lava pits late in the game.

On a side note: why do you collect guns, swords and TNT from the little kids you rescue? If they’re armed to the fucking teeth, why do they need rescue? The baddies just have swords, these dozens upon dozens of well armed children could blow these Thugee douchebags to kingdom come.

Anyway, the game is still fun even if it is maddening. It’s not too difficult for about half the game but eventually, you get to the point where there are so many traps and baddies that you’re often times overwhelmed and the shitty mechanics don’t help you slay those annoying bats and snakes.

Once you get to Wave 10, if you even get that far, you might as well give up. Even with the help of Game Genie codes, I’ve never been able to get beyond it, as the exit is damn near impossible to find. You’ll never get there with the timer working against you and if you have to backtrack through the massive lava stage where you deplete all your swords and guns, you’ll be shit out of luck.

Sure, some people have beat the game but there are also people that dedicate their entire lives to mastering the kazoo.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the much superior arcade version of the game, as well as the more frustrating Nintendo version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Video Game Review: 8 Eyes (NES)

I have never played 8 Eyes but I always thought that the box art and logo were really cool. But it was sort of lost in the sea of other side scrolling fantasy games of the time and I never heard much about it from friends, as to whether it was good, bad or just meh.

But I figured that I’d fire it up and attempt to give it a playthrough because I typically love these sort of games and there are still many old school Nintendo games that I slept on as a kid because my allowance was shit and my choices of what games to rent was pretty limited at the ol’ mom and pop video store.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. However, it was confusing at first, as I wasn’t sure if I needed to beat levels in a certain order and because the controls are pretty complex for a game from this generation. The controls are still simple enough but it took some mental adjustment and a bit of time to understand how to do the falconry stuff.

I though that most of the level designs were pretty good but there was a pretty big variance on difficulty and size of the maps.

There is a gigantic mix of different enemy types and most of them are easy enough but there are a few that are frustrating. Unfortunately, the boss battles are all fairly annoying, not fun and they take away from the overall solidness of the game.

8 Eyes looks good though, with nice sprite design, a good color palate and an environment that uses the best aspects of the Castlevania games without being hindered by wonky mechanics.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the Castlevania games, which it’s design is very similar to, as well as other side scrolling fantasy games for the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner (NES)

I remember liking this as a kid but it’s been a really long time since I’ve played it.

As a grown adult in 2020 with over three decades of video game experience under my belt, I now think that The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner stinks!

It’s repetitive, annoying, pretty damn pointless and doesn’t offer up anything worthwhile other than it having a 3D mode that no one ever used, even way back in 1987.

You just run forward in a faux 3D world, dodging random objects, blasting random objects, avoiding poisonous mushrooms and trying not to get stopped by flying disembodied hands while jumping over massive chasms.

At the end of each series of stages, you basically fight the same boss: a flying serpent shaped thing. Sometimes you have to fight multiple in a row. The only difference between them is they have different heads and colors. They also take more hits to kill as the game advances.

In the end, this is pretty basic, very repetitious and not very exciting. I guess the world looks cool but that doesn’t salvage the game from simply being a gimmick that doesn’t deliver beyond that.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit adventure games for the original Nintendo, which is almost every game for the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Section Z (NES)

I vividly remember playing this game for the first time. It was at my cousin’s house just outside of New York City circa 1988. I thought it was pretty damn cool but I never really got to play it again until emulators and roms became a thing in the late ’90s.

I’ve never played the game all the way through though, so I figured I’d revisit it in an effort to try and kick its ass so that I didn’t have to review it with my tail between my legs.

Well, I kicked its ass… but it was definitely not a cakewalk.

The reason being is actually my biggest gripe about the game.

The main problem I have with Section Z is that its not really clear which gate to take at the end of each stage and how you’re supposed to progress. So I had to read up on that a little and I got the gist of it. Kids in 1988 without the Internet probably lost their hair before middle school.

Anyway, there are basically three sets of levels. To beat each one, you have to get to the level with the barrier shield and destroy it. Once you do that, you’ve got to figure out which gate will then advance you to the next section of levels. Along the way there are also some cool boss fights. I thought that the final boss was solid because it looked cooler than anything else in the game and the fight was fun.

The gameplay is pretty good and fluid. I like the mechanics, they’re easy to use and understand and even though the levels can get repetitive, you don’t get bored. Well, unless you’re stuck in a loop of stages you can’t find your way out of because there’s no way to really know where to go without a guide or a walkthrough.

Section Z is nowhere close to being a perfect game or one you’ll be dying to play after beating it but it’s a really satisfying side scrolling shooter that is good at killing time on a rainy day.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling shooters in a sci-fi setting. For example: Gradius, Lifeforce, MagMax, Seicross, etc.