Video Game Review: Ninja Gaiden (NES)

I loved Ninja Gaiden back in the ’80s.

But playing it again now, the first time in quite some time, I realized that my love of the game is more about the story and the incredible cut scenes that were, at the time, better than just about anything presented in the 8-bit NES format.

I love the world, the mythos and was so captivated by it that I used to draw my own Ninja Gaiden comics. But this was also during the ’80s when cultural ninja mania was at an all-time high, especially in the minds of elementary school aged boys.

The gameplay itself is pretty shitty. And I remembered how frustrating this game was. When I was a kid, I dealt with it and pushed through because the story was just so badass. As an adult, I had to push through because I wanted to properly review it and because I had the benefit of playing it on an emulator with save states and with a few game genie codes activated.

But man, even for cheaters like myself, this is still a hell of a bitch to get through. The game physics are terrible, if I’m being honest. Some of these physics would be tweaked and improved upon in the sequel but you get so overwhelmed by monsters that you often times get knocked out of the air, mid-jump, or knocked off of pillars and platforms.

Also, none of the boss battles are very fun. They’re mostly frustrating, don’t require much strategy other than not getting hit and they aren’t something you even look forward to, which is a failure in game design and player engagement.

These games were made to be damn near impossible to beat. While I did beat this one without cheating, as a kid, it probably would’ve made me start drinking if my mum actually kept real booze in the house.

But complaints and frustration aside, the story and cut scenes are still fucking cool, even in 2019.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: all the other Ninja Gaiden games for the NES.

Video Game Review: Mega Man (NES)

There are few video game series that I spent more time playing in my youth than Mega Man. I actually started with the second game but after discovering that one, I went back and got this one, which I played nearly as much.

This is not the best game in the series, as future installments would add new things into the game that improved them. However, this is where it all started and it’s still a pretty solid foundation for the series, which still releases regular installments over thirty years later.

That being said, even with the cool stuff the games would add in, this doesn’t feel like a lesser game, as the gameplay and design are the same as all the other NES sequels.

My only real gripe about this, which wouldn’t have even existed if I hadn’t played the second one first, is that the levels, while well designed and laid out, aren’t as polished looking. Also, this only has six evil robots, as opposed to the standard eight, which would become the formula after this chapter.

The gameplay is fast and simple: you run and you shoot stuff. You also have to evade certain enemies and traps. Some screens also have puzzles you have to solve to advance to another screen but those are pretty much blocks that appear and disappear.

Overall, this is pretty difficult in spots, especially once you beat the six robots the first time and have to go into the Dr. Wily levels. Some of the bosses in the final levels can be a real challenge for first time players.

But in the end, this is a great foundation for this series. Not much needed to be tweaked and because of that, this plays and feels like the other solid games that it spawned.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: all the Mega Man games for the NES.

Video Game Review: The Goonies (NES)

In the late ’80s, my friends and I used to play the original Nintendo game Goonies II. As far as I knew, it was the only game and it was titled that because it was supposed to serve as a sequel to the film.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out that there was actually a Goonies I that was released in Japan. And it is mostly tied to the plot of the movie, even though you have to rescue all the other Goonies from the Fratellis, as opposed to all the Goonies just having to evade them on their way to One Eyed Willie’s treasure.

This is a much shorter and straightforward video game than its sequel. You simply work your way through six different levels: one is the Fratellis’ restaurant, four are caves and the last level is One Eyed Willie’s ship. In each level, you look for keys and other items but your primary goal is to rescue whichever Goonie is being held captive there.

The level designs are pretty good, even if the game is a bit confusing and easy to get turned around in. It all sort of clicks after you’ve been playing it for a bit though. But each level is timed, so if you don’t hit all your objectives and exit the locked door, you die.

This is mostly a pretty fun game that doesn’t take much time to master or really, much time to beat. The timer, if you get yourself lost, is the only real enemy, as everything else in the game isn’t too hard to deal with.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Goonies II for the NES.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon II: The Revenge (Arcade)

The Double Dragon games were a massive part of my childhood. At least the parts that were spent at the video arcade or playing the original Nintendo.

My fondest memories were of the original game and Super Nintendo’s Super Double Dragon. However, when this game first came out, I was ecstatic that my favorite beat’em up side scroller of the time was getting a sequel.

Sadly, this one disappointed, even if I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself it was awesome.

My biggest gripe with the game is how they altered the controls. How you attack depends on how you are facing the enemy, which made attacks from multiple sides a pretty infuriating experience. I could play this for hours and my brain still couldn’t adapt to the bizarre and terrible change.

Playing this now, I turned it off about two-thirds of the way through because even on MAME, where I can alter the controls to my liking, I still couldn’t get the game to work in a fluid and fun way. I was bogged down by the shitty combat system.

Also, the enemies in this game just seem a lot more annoying, which is only compounded by the awful controls.

On top of that, this feels more like a rehash of the first game with shittier and more generic level design. Where the first game inspired imagination, this one just felt like one of the dozens of games that ripped off Double Dragon. This really added nothing good to the game series and in fact, made it worse.

However, the Nintendo version of the game is much better with some pretty good level design and additions. Sadly, it’s still got these shitty controls though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)

Who doesn’t love Castlevania games?

I’ve played almost all of them up until the late ’00s. Yet, I never got around to playing Bloodlines, which is actually kind of strange, as I owned a Sega Genesis and rented games for it all the damn time.

This was cool to check out now, though.

This plays just like all the other Castlevania games before it, well… excluding Simon’s Quest, as that one was a breed all its own.

Anyway, this plays a lot like the first and third games for the original Nintendo. You work your way through levels, you fight all sorts of monstrosities and you usually get the shit kicked out of you because Castlevania games tend to be hard as shit, even for those of us who have played them pretty steadily over the course of our lives.

For the most part, this Castlevania game is a lot of fun. I like that you have two characters to choose from but if I’m being honest, just pick the dude with the whip because playing a Castlevania game without a whip is like playing a different game entirely. Unless, you’re Alucard and you can transform into cool shit and have a lightning fast rapier. But this game doesn’t have Alucard as a playable character, so just take the whip dude.

This game is also set further into the future and the characters have a lineage to characters of the past. Hence, the name Bloodlines.

Still, the world looks about the same and it doesn’t really matter which century this take place in.

Now I didn’t beat this game. I think I got pretty far but man, this game will crush your ass. I especially had a lot of frustration on the level with the rising water and then having to kill that level’s boss without drowning. That’s the one spot where I really got hung up, lost a lot of lives and blew through too many continues.

Despite my difficulty, this is still a solid game and it was more fun than frustrating.

It has fluid gameplay, looks superb and boasts a great soundtrack.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The original Castlevania trilogy for NES, Super Castlevania IV for SNES, the Gameboy Castlevania games, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (also known as Dracula X) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the original PlayStation.

Video Game Review: Dead Angle (Sega Master System)

Dead Angle for the Sega Master System is an okay game for its time.

Basically, it’s a side scrolling shooter where your character is a transparent wire frame with his back to you, similar to the arcade versions of Punch-Out!!

You scroll through each level, shooting gangsters while trying not to get hit.

I found the controls to be really wonky and this isn’t an easy game to play because of that. Maybe it requires a lot more practice but the repetitiveness of the game didn’t really inspire me to put in a lot of hours. I only really played this for twenty minutes before giving up on it.

The game would have benefited from being an actual shooter with a light gun. However, I guess it would’ve had to have found an alternative way of letting the player get damaged. Considering that the Sega Master System had its own light gun, similar to its main competitor Nintendo, I’m surprised that this game didn’t take advantage of that accessory.

Again, this is an okay game but there isn’t much here to keep one’s interest beyond general curiosity.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: The Punisher for the original Nintendo and other side scrolling action shooters.

Video Game Review: ALF (Sega Master System)

This was a disappointment.

I was glad to finally have access to the Sega Master System via a RetroPie machine. When I saw that there was an ALF game for it, I had to power it up and go for the gusto!

To be blunt, this game fucking sucks.

You play as ALF. Initially, I thought I was supposed to pick up cats. Although, I’m not sure if you save them to eat them later or what the deal is. But the game goes deeper than that and the cats don’t seem that important.

You also have to dodge these perverts dressed like Buttons McBoomBoom from C.O.P.S. They are walking around slowly, hands stretched out like they’re trying to grab boobies and if they touch you, you’re instantaneously dead. However, they don’t have to even touch you. They just have to be close. But that makes the mechanics of the game infuriating as you can’t whisk by them or jump over them. It’s like they have ghost tentacles with instant death poison.

Additionally, you get out of the house and take to the streets. The game sort of becomes a side scrolling Frogger in that you have to move around traffic. However, like the perverts, the vehicles don’t have to actually touch you, they just need to be close. So the game becomes even more infuriating.

On the positive side, I thought that the graphics were good for the time. But that’s about the only real positive.

I’d rather eat a whole tray of school lunch pizza than have to play this again.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other poorly crafted and executed 8-bit games based on intellectual properties that were just looking for a quick buck from ’80s and ’90s kids.