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.

Video Game Review: Blaster Master (NES)

Blaster Master is one of those games that I play, time and time again, wishing that it would be better than it actually is because there is just something really cool about it.

The game was really damn unique for the time in that there are different gameplay modes.

First, you get to drive around in this sweet vehicle that shoots and jumps. The jumping feature is simply badass and you can actually change direction mid-jump.

Second, you get to leave the vehicle and run around as a little dude with a blaster. This is so that you can reach areas that your little battle buggy can’t.

Third, as the little dude, you can enter dungeons. Once there, you play in a bird’s-eye-view mode, as you walk around and blast shit, going through mazes and looking for a boss to fight.

The game is creative and the extra layers of gameplay are what makes this a memorable experience when compared to other games from this generation.

However, the novelty and coolness start to wear off due to the controls. The controls in this game are shit and it makes an already difficult game, more difficult than it needs to be. You do adapt to the controls with more gameplay but they never really feel like they’re fluid.

And yes, the game is already pretty hard. Granted, lots of NES games are hard by modern standards where just about every game gives you difficulty options and can be beaten if you just keep playing. But this seems hard even for regular NES standards.

But I still like firing this up every now and again because it’s such a great concept. It just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Bad Dudes (NES)

If you don’t like 8-bit, 2D, side scrolling, beat’em up video games, you’re probably lame.

Bad Dudes was one of the best. I preferred the arcade version, as it was graphically superior but the home console version for the Nintendo Entertainment System was still a hell of a lot of fun. Especially, with that 64 lives code. It’s pretty damn hard without that.

While I would consider the original Double Dragon a superior game, this one had the benefit of ninjas and the title character of the video game Karnov as one of its bosses.

All the boss battles in this were pretty unique and fun though. The only weak one was probably the second level boss, which was just a tiny midget dude that has claws like Vega from Street Fighter II.

This game has solid levels for the genre. None of them are designed great but you go from the city streets, to fighting on the top of moving semi trucks and trains, into the sewers, out into the country and finally into a big warehouse full of ninjas and all the bosses you already beat.

Some games can be simple and work and that’s exactly what Bad Dudes is. You walk, you punch, you kick and you steal weapons from ninjas you kick the crap out of. What’s not to love?

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s beat’em up games like Double Dragon and its sequels, RenegadeCrime Fighters, Final Fight, River City Ransom, Streets of Rage and its sequels, etc.

Video Game Review: Gyromite (NES)

Gyromite was the first game that I ever played for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Back in the day, it was originally packaged with the console before the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge was the norm.

The game was also unique in that if you played it solo, you had to use R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), a peripheral that came with the earliest versions of the system. R.O.B. sort of failed as a concept and with it, Gyromite faded into obscurity but the experience of playing the game and using a friggin’ robot pretty much blew my seven year-old mind in 1986.

R.O.B.’s long-term failure probably had to do with the fact that you could only use the peripheral with just two games. But, at least R.O.B. proved to be a marketing success, as many kids wanted the console that came with a robot and without R.O.B. and Gyromite, Nintendo might not have become the powerhouse that they did.

Playing this game now is kind of difficult. You have to have a second player or if you are playing it on an emulator, you need to set up the Player 2 controls in a way that it makes it easy for a single player to control the hero in the game, as well as the moving pipes.

This is an action puzzle game, which was something that Nintendo (and many of its regular third party developers) were superb at developing.

It starts out pretty tame and easy but the game gets seriously difficult as you progress. It’s damn hard playing it on an emulator where you have to basically work with two different controller sets via keyboard.

Still, revisiting this was entertaining and it definitely filled my mind up with some strong nostalgia. It truly is a product of the ’80s and it still works well for what it is, even if the dual controller situation makes it a bit awkward to play.

But in the game’s defense, it was made to be played with your friends or siblings. It’s a tandem, multiplayer game that requires solid teamwork and communication to make it work. That’s not a bad concept.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other action puzzle games for NES: Solomon’s Key, Marble Madness, Clu Clu Land, Lode Runner and Burger Time.