Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)

I fed this arcade game so many quarters in 1990 that I never had money to buy anything else. I usually had to persuade my mum into giving me more quarters, as well as giving me an extra allowance just for comics.

Anyway, I’m glad that I can play this whenever I want now and the quarters are free because with MAME, I only have to hit “select” to add credits.

This was and still is one of the all-time greatest side scrolling beat’em up arcade games in history. Sure, the genre was going strong by the time that this came out but it took things to a new level. Maybe that’s because the Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing in pop culture in 1990 but even then, this is such a perfectly polished and energetic game that it’s greatness can’t be brushed off simply because it’s associated with a massive franchise.

The controls are superb, the gameplay is fluid and this isn’t a beat’em up that gets dull or all that repetitive. Each level feels fresh and new, the levels aren’t too long and even if you are fighting a dozen enemies at once, you don’t get so overwhelmed that you have to blow through quarters just to get off of one screen.

What’s also great is that this was a four player game. So you and four of your friends could jump in together and kick Foot Clan ass. Even if you didn’t have friends with you at the arcade, there was never a shortage on kids ready to jump in and give you a hand. I actually met some friends this way.

This was an arcade game that I would often play to completion. It was perfectly balanced on its difficulty and every kid felt like they could beat it without completely going broke. There are days where I played through it twice in a row.

The Nintendo port that came out after this was never as good. It always felt like the cheap, incomplete and buggy version of its superior arcade father. Granted, the NES version did add some interesting new levels and characters.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em up arcade games from the era, especially involving turtles.

 

Video Game Review: RoboCop (Arcade)

I used to love the hell out of this game whenever I’d see its cabinet glowing in the corner of my local arcade. I used to pump quarters into this thing like an old lady at a slot machine in Circus Circus. But I remember dropping serious coin and never being able to get very far.

Now that I can run this on MAME, I have infinite quarters, so I wanted to revisit it and play it all the way through.

I’ve got to say, this game is a beast. And I don’t mean that complimentary. Maybe there is a difficulty setting I can alter on MAME but you get overwhelmed by enemies and killed pretty damn quickly. It’s amazing how quick you get overwhelmed and really early in the game. Sure, I can keep continuing and I did but you only get one life and the continue screen freezes the gameplay action, bogging down the gameplay flow and your momentum. It’s kind of tedious, actually.

And hell, it’s been nearly three decade since I’ve played this and I could just suck really bad at it. But this era of arcade games are my cup of tea and I’m a pretty good player in most cases.

I still love the graphics and the game runs smooth as hell. The real high point is the music and the sound effects, which are top notch for this game’s generation.

It could have gotten more creative with boss battles, as you fight ED-209s a half dozen times and even fight two at the same time towards the end.

This isn’t too dissimilar from the Nintendo RoboCop game but it is harder and the levels feel more repetitious than its NES counterpart. For instance, for those familiar with the NES game, the City Hall level isn’t in this version.

All in all, this was fun to revisit but it’s insane difficulty made it a chore after the first ten minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era.

Video Game Review: Kid Niki (NES)

Kid Niki is another one of those games that I used to love playing the shit out of. It’s just a fun, quick game that gets pretty damn challenging as you go deeper into it.

It’s a pretty basic side scroller with easy mechanics.

The characters are completely cartoony and look nothing like the absolutely badass box art. However, I don’t think that this would have been as fun if the game was made to look as serious and grim as the art.

All the boss battles are unique and some take a little trial and error to figure out but this game is definitely beatable after you’ve played it enough and gotten a feel for the mechanics and the patterns.

I don’t have as deep of a love for it now, as I did in the late ’80s and I can’t label it a classic, but revisiting it every couple of years is still a fun experience.

Plus, I really dig the music and the overall sound effects.

Kid Niki is well crafted and is still a great way to waste a half of an hour.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Rygar (NES)

Rygar didn’t seem to be a very popular game when it came out for the original Nintendo back in the late ’80s but I always dug the hell out of it because it was so different than everything else and it had really rad music.

It’s unique in that it provides the player with both a side scrolling mode, as well as levels that are played in a top-down bird’s-eye-view. But between both of these modes, the game’s mechanics are consistent and show how how well crafted this is, as far as the actions of the player.

There is one issue with the game that exposes a design flaw and that’s how you can make enemies disappear if they get too close to the edge of the screen. There are a lot of enemies that you can just make disappear by exposing this flaw, which makes the game easier but considering just how challenging the game is, this can become really handy in the tougher levels.

What I really find cool about this game is the weapon. It’s a disk attached to a chain but the way it moves in the game makes it feel like more of an energy weapon. You can smash the button really fast and it sort of just wiggles in place, hitting the enemies multiple times. But even with that cool caveat, the game is still a real challenge and not easy to beat.

Almost all of the levels in this are well designed and tough to navigate and this game does take a bit of a learning curve to adapt to it’s uniqueness.

In the end, this is a blast to play and it’s something I revisit every few years because I still love it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Metroid (NES)

When people talk about bonafide NES classics, Metroid is always near the top of everyone’s list and rightfully so. It’s a superb, lengthy game in an era where lengthy games didn’t really exist. In fact, this one was so lengthy that it needed a code system to allow players to pick up where they left off.

Back in 1987, this took my cousin Billy and I a few months to crack. Granted, we were also eight years-old, at the time, and had to go to elementary school full-time. We didn’t have the luxury of modern gamers, plucking away for days and days, calling off shifts at work because the obsession is more important than responsibility.

This game still plays well, especially for those of us who never quite quit playing classic Nintendo titles.

It’s fun, it’s hard and it has one of the most kick ass soundtracks of its era.

The game also spawned a franchise with many solid sequels. However, this one is still the greatest of them all, in my opinion. I never had a Super Nintendo, so I didn’t spend too much time playing Super Metroid and the Gameboy’s Metroid II was also fantastic but this one takes the cake, as far as I’m concerned.

But maybe I’ll give Super Metroid a playthrough in the near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Contra (NES)

What’s cooler than a badass 8-bit shoot’em up 2D side scroller from the ’80s? How about a badass 8-bit shoot’em up 2D side scroller that also goes vertical and throws a couple pseudo 3D dungeons into the mix?

Plus, this has pretty cool boss battles with bosses that look badass. And for something that just involves running, gunning and jumping, the game’s design doesn’t make it feel repetitive.

Konami were most definitely on their A-game in the ’80s, especially in the coin-op arcade market. This was originally an arcade game but it’s this port to the original Nintendo Entertainment System that is most remembered. In fact, I’d say that this game was beloved by a generation and for good reason.

The NES version is well designed, performs great and it runs pretty damn smoothly. Also, the controls are very good, as are the in-game physics. I also dig the hell out of the game’s music.

I love Contra and even if it is near impossible to beat without the infamous Konami Code, I would play through this game multiple times in a row, as a kid.

In 2019, this is still one of my favorite classic NES games to fire up on my emulator. I still play this thing at least once a month.

Plus, Contra evolved into a series with sequels that were also pretty good. Maybe not as iconic, but each entry brought something new to the series.

But it is this one, the original, that still stands tall and is, frankly, one of the best Nintendo games ever made.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Rush’n Attack (NES)

I have fond memories of this game. As a kid, a friend at school let me borrow it for the whole summer. I played the shit out of it because I knew that eventually I’d have to give it back.

Revisiting it all these years later, it doesn’t hold up to my memories of it but I still liked giving it a playthrough.

The game is a simple side scroller where you just mostly have a combat knife that you use to go all stabby on the enemy soldiers running at you. There isn’t a lot of strategy in this game, just stab, stab, stab and jump over those landmines.

It is actually more difficult than it needs to be though, as it’s one of those games where one hit kills you. You can get through it all with enough practice though and it’s even easier if you’re playing it on an emulator that allows you to save your progress.

For the time though, the game has a cool visual style and I like the music.

It plays off of the Cold War fears in the ’80s and I’ve often wondered if Rush’n Attack‘s title was a tongue and cheek way of saying “Russian Attack”.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.