Video Game Review: Altered Beast (Arcade)

While I’ve played the Sega Genesis port of this game countless times, it’s been a really long time since I’ve fired up the original arcade version.

I was surprised to discover that there wasn’t much difference between the two.

Although, I feel like the rom that I played may have been an earlier version of the game, as I could only transform into the werewolf on each level and I wasn’t able to turn into the other were-creatures. After watching the arcade playthrough video below, I saw that the other animals did indeed exist in the arcade version. So why mine only had the werewolf is a mystery, I guess.

If you’ve got insight on this, leave a comment.

That being said, this was still fun to play, even if werewolf mode made it damn hard to beat some of the bosses that were tailored more for the special attacks of other hero monsters.

This is a very simple beat’em up game with minor platformer elements. It’s side scrolling and moves at it’s own pace. The only real objective is to beat stuff up, collect power-up orbs and turn into a badass were-creature to fight each level’s boss. The game has five levels.

Altered Beast was never great or even all that engaging. It was just a really cool game that was fun to play, had neat graphics and sound for the time and also allowed you to transform into pretty generic but powerful monsters.

As a kid, I used to wish it was longer because I’d usually beat it in fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, it didn’t get a sequel until years later. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups from the 16-bit era.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (Arcade)

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone is the only Double Dragon game that I didn’t play in the arcade and I only had the original Nintendo version to recount from memory.

This differs from the Nintendo version, which had an alternate start to the game and also felt like a wonky rebuild of the two games that came before it. It was also hard as fuck when compared to the other two games and it wasn’t fun to play.

At least with the arcade version, you can just pop in more quarters and keep playing without having to start over. Playing this now on a RetroPie, you have all the quarters you want and don’t have to worry about forking over all your allowance and weekly lunch money.

Like its predecessors, this is a side scrolling beat’em up action game. In this chapter of the series, however, you travel the world hunting for MacGuffins.

Apart from that, the game is really just a rehash of the ones before it. Where the second game altered its mechanics in a fairly shitty way, this game at least tried to make them more like the original. Still, they don’t seem to work quite as well but I think that’s due to this game’s reworking of its weapons system.

As opposed to beating someone’s ass and taking their weapon, you now accrue a sort of currency that allows you to purchase items (and I believe upgrades). The in-game system was a bit of a clusterfuck, so I just ignored it and just kept kicking baddies in the chin.

This isn’t great but it is better than the second game. In the end, though, nothing from the franchise tops the first, original Double Dragon arcade game.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Spelunker (NES)

I never knew about Spelunker until I came across a video of it recently. Being that I love the hell out of 8-bit era action puzzle games, I wanted to play it.

However, this is far from the near masterpiece that is Solomon’s Key.

To start, the game has great level design and it looks fantastic. I was really excited when I fired this up.

However, my enthusiasm was completely wrecked by the terrible mechanics and controls. The in-game physics are wonky at best and it almost feels like this was deliberately designed to infuriate you from the get go.

Still, I tried to get passed the learning curve but the mechanics are just so shit that I eventually gave up.

So I didn’t play this through to completion or had to stop because I found myself at some impossible roadblock. I just got burnt out trying to make the character on the screen do what I wanted him to do.

In the end, this had the makings and level design to be something incredibly fun. Instead, it’s a really wonderful looking bag of dicks.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other action puzzle games for the original Nintendo and earlier Atari systems.

Video Game Review: Wolverine (NES)

I never played this game when it was released, as it came out after I moved on to 16-bit consoles. But it plays a lot like the NES Spider-Man game.

It’s a simple, side-scrolling platformer full of action and some of Marvel Comics’ most iconic X-Men related characters.

The game is fairly weak though, due to only having a handful of rather short levels. Additionally, the levels are pretty basic and not well designed.

Wolverine could’ve been better with more complex design and not just longer levels but more levels.

Also, you only get to fight two iconic villains. In this game you face Magneto and then the final boss, Sabretooth. Honestly, that feels like it’s backwards, regardless of Sabretooth being Wolverine’s biggest rival. Magneto is a much stronger threat with a real trump card when it comes to dealing with Wolverine and that’s his magnetic powers versus Wolverine’s metal skeleton.

Anyway, this was still enjoyable enough not to hate. I’d call it basic bitch shit and uninspiring but for a game based on a licensed property, it’s still better than most and infinitely better than the NES X-Men game that came out a few years earlier.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling comic book games of the 8-bit era.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)

While not all licensed property video games are created equal, most in the 8-bit era were terrible. While this isn’t as good as DuckTales or the ’89 Batman game, it is actually better than most games like it. It certainly blows that Nintendo X-Men game out of the water! It’s also a lot less frustrating than the Silver Surfer game, which gave me an ulcer and a permanent lifelong migraine when I was eleven years-old.

This Spider-Man game is fairly okay but it pales in comparison to the 16-bit games like the first Genesis Spider-Man title and the much beloved Maximum Carnage.

Still, this brings together the Sinister Six and lets you fight through them all in an effort to stop their nefarious plan.

This version of the villain group consists of Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, The Vulture, The Sandman, Electro and Mysterio. All of them are regular Sinister Six members so I was pretty happy with the lineup, as we didn’t get stuck with some schmo like Carrion, Boomerang, Tarantula, Vermin or Shocker.

As far as design goes, the levels are pretty basic and a bit tedious to work through. Granted, the game certainly isn’t unbeatable and you can get through it with enough practice or if you’re just an 8-bit platform master.

The biggest thing working against you though, isn’t the level design and overabundance of enemies and projectiles, it’s the clunky, shitty mechanics. Spidey is a bitch to control and the physics are terrible.

When it comes to boss battles, most of them seem pretty hard the first time but once you figure out the enemy’s pattern, they aren’t too hard to beat. I actually thought the final boss, Doctor Octopus, was one of the easiest in the game.

Overall, this is both fun and frustrating. For those who grew up in this game’s era and who loved the Sinister Six story arcs in the comics, you’ll most likely enjoy this. Even if it overwhelms you about midway through, it’s not a hard game to adjust to and eventually conquer.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling 8-bit era action games based on comic books characters.

Video Game Review: Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

I never played this game and I guess I kind of missed out, as I probably would’ve really liked this, back in the day.

I was a fan of the first Sunsoft Batman game for the original Nintendo, as it came out and was tied to the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

I never realized that this one was a direct sequel to it and I guess that makes it exist in an alternate timeline than the cinematic universe of the same era. Granted, these games are very different than the ’89 movie in that they have a very sci-fi/cyberpunk aesthetic and deviate from the film’s story quite a bit.

So in this version of a sequel, the Joker has survived. They’ve also given him more of a comic book look, as opposed to using Jack Nicholson’s likeness. I’m assuming that was because the licensing fees to use his visage once again was too pricey and unnecessary in the grander scheme of things.

The game looks very similar to its predecessor; however, they’ve given Batman a larger sprite and stripped away the mechanics only to replace them with something worse. The weapons system may seem more advanced but it’s kind of confusing, tedious and annoying. Also, you can’t bounce off of walls and scale them like you could in the previous game.

This also adds in a few jetpack shooter stages that play more like a Gradius game than a normal Batman title. It’s kind of cool but I would’ve preferred having more standard levels with some good design. In fact, the levels in this game feel very small and are conquered too quickly.

Most of the bosses are just a big pain in the ass. Additionally, the first time you fight the Joker, he flies around in a pod like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games. It’s not cool and it’s pretty lame. The second time you fight the Joker, you basically fight a Joker-themed super computer. It’s also lame.

This game had some promise and I mostly enjoyed it but the improvements just ended up being disappointments. I would’ve rather just gotten a redesigned version of the first game with new levels and bosses.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the previous Sunsoft Batman game for the NES

Video Game Review: Predator (NES)

After playing Rambo for the original Nintendo, I figured that I’d revisit that system’s Predator game as well.

While this is similar to Rambo in that it is a side-scrolling shooter and platformer based on an action franchise starring an action movie megastar of the ’80s, it doesn’t quite play as well as Rambo and it has some strange elements to it.

The strangest thing about this is that there are two game modes. I’m not really sure why they did this, other than trying to maybe blow kid’s minds with two modes but both are essentially side scrolling shoot’em up situations.

The only really difference is that the second mode makes the sprites bigger and more detailed but it also forces you to move as the screen scrolls on its own. The second mode Predator alien looks superb, especially for the 8-bit era, but it doesn’t save this mode from being annoying as hell and terrible to play through.

I much prefer the regular mode of the game, which is basically just a run and gun platformer with a multitude of baddies to blast and evade.

One problem with this game’s design, is that it looks like it is trying to emulate the aesthetic of the original Contra. However, it fails to have the great, smooth mechanics of that game and the graphics aren’t really up to snuff. Also, the level design is shit and pretty annoying.

Predator also features a weird final boss battle where you take on the gigantic, disembodied head of a Predator alien. This never happened in the movie but whatever.

This is actually better than I remembered it but even then, it is still a mostly bad game with a secondary mode that kills it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other action side scrollers of the 8-bit era, especially those based on action movies.

Video Game Review: Rambo (NES)

My memories of this game didn’t paint it in a favorable light. However, I was surprised to discover that I actually quite liked the game, playing it in 2020.

Now this is far from perfect, as the objective and where to go isn’t made too clear, but once you get some time in and get the hang of the game, it grows on you.

It has a very similar playing style to Zelda II in that it is a side scrolling action game where you get experience points by killing enemies. Now the leveling up advantages aren’t as clear as they are in Zelda II but this essentially follows the same concept with roughly the same size character sprites and game mechanics.

That being said, the mechanics aren’t as polished as Zelda II and sometimes it is difficult to duck and shoot or turn and shoot someone coming up behind you. Had these issues been fixed before this was released, this could have been a damn good game. Instead, we get something that’s fairly fun but also frustrating in a firefight with multiple enemies.

Also, the boss battles are all very weak and monotonous. The big helicopter fight isn’t something you can go into with a strategy, you just have to hope you have enough medicine bottles and get lucky enough to inflict enough damage while missiles rain on your head and multiple enemies appear to expose the terrible flaws in the game’s controls.

Still, I had fun playing through this and beating it. It’s far from being a classic but for an ’80s console video game based on a licensed property, it’s not half bad.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other action side scrollers of the 8-bit era.

Video Game Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (NES)

I actually hated this game as a kid. I didn’t really understand what you were supposed to do and it wasn’t made clear within the game. The similar Friday the 13th made some sense and ultimately, I figured out how to beat it.

Well, I fully grasp this game now, thanks to skimming over an online walkthrough, which weren’t available in the late ’80s. So now I’ve played through this and beat it and have more of an appreciation for it, even if it is a pretty flawed game.

I’d actually say that I prefer this a bit more than Friday the 13th but it still isn’t as great as an A Nightmare On Elm Street game could’ve been in the 8-bit realm. However, it is better than most licensed games based on larger properties.

My main gripe with this is that there isn’t much difference between the real world and the dream world. I love that you can play in both but I find the real world to be more of a pain in the ass, even if the enemies seem somewhat weaker. But why are there zombies, monster snakes and giant rats in the real world? Is Elm Street next to a zoo that did insane lab experiments and then released them on the suburbs?

That being said, this game lacks creativity. What sucks about that, is that A Nightmare On Elm Street is a franchise full of some of the most creative slasher movies ever made. I don’t think anyone can really deny that.

Granted, this offers up more boss battles than Friday the 13th, which only really has two. However, the boss battles in this game primarily consist of disembodied pieces of Freddy Krueger floating around a screen or being attached to a chain like Chain Chomps from the Super Mario games.

When you do actually fight Freddy in his normal form, the boss battle is pretty underwhelming.

Additionally, the level design isn’t great and the game is pretty repetitive.

Still, this isn’t a bad way to waste about an hour of your time. While it’s damn difficult, it’s not unbeatable and it does give you a sense of accomplishment once you toss Freddy’s bones into the furnace.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the Friday the 13th game for the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Dirty Harry (NES)

Man, this is a really, really shitty video game. And it’s actually unfortunate too because there are things about it that are kind of great and fairly cool.

Focusing on the positives first, this game has multiple gameplay modes. There’s the side scrolling street action and then there’s a side scrolling mixed with three-dimensional exploring element when you take Dirty Harry into buildings.

I also think that the game looks fairly good for a licensed property game made for the original Nintendo. The reason I point that out is because the NES was synonymous for having terrible games based on movies. Honestly, that wasn’t just an NES problem, though.

That’s it for the positives; so on to the negatives.

To start, this game is completely wrecked by how terrible the controls are.

It is then further wrecked by what appears to be interesting level design but ultimately is just a frustrating maze where it’s fairly easy to trap yourself and then become overwhelmed by thugs that just keep spawning, again and again. And with really limited ammo and a punch that couldn’t tear a hole through a wet paper bag, you’ll probably end up throwing your controller across the room.

Additionally, some things just don’t make any fucking sense!

Why are these ghetto apartments full of snakes and laser floor traps? Couldn’t these thugs have spent some money on fixing up the place before buying all the snake babies at the San Francisco Zoo? Floor lasers… seriously? Couldn’t they have hired a maid or thirty-seven with that money?

Also, why is Dirty Harry wearing an electric blue suit and black shirt? He’s Dirty fucking Harry not a random pimp from an episode of Miami Vice!

When I first fired this up, I thought, “Okay… this actually looks promising.” Two minutes later, I thought, “Someone get me some gasoline and a blowtorch, I’m roasting this fucker!”

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: its very diverse gameplay reminded me of The Lone Ranger for the original Nintendo but this pales in comparison to that.