Video Game Review: The Lone Ranger (NES)

I have never played The Lone Ranger for the original Nintendo but I went into this knowing nothing about the game and without having any expectations.

What I was really surprised to discover is that this is one of the greatest 8-bit action RPGs of all-time!

Seriously, no one talks about this game, I’ve never heard anything about it and because of that, I have to consider it a real hidden gem among the 600+ titles that were released for the system.

The thing that makes this game so great is that it employs multiple gameplay styles from bird’s eye view world traveling to side scrolling, vertical scrolling and first person shooter action levels. You fight in towns, on moving trains, in caves, in forts, in hotels, on mountains, in the desert and even get to fight on horseback in two different ways.

Man, this game is just cool as hell and a shitload of fun! It’s really damn difficult but it isn’t unbeatable. I did beat the game, even though it took some time, and it gave me a real sense of accomplishment unlike many games from the era that have really underwhelming endings. This game’s ending was pretty superb for the time.

There isn’t a dull moment or a boring mission. The game designers did a fantastic job at keeping every area of the game fresh and unique, always adding new twists and ways to play the game.

For the 8-bit era, this is close to a masterpiece. The only things working against it are a lack of maps in the first-person stages and frustrating controls that switch your weapon when you jump.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other action RPGs and western games for the NES.

Video Game Review: Mighty Bomb Jack (NES)

Man, I haven’t played Mighty Bomb Jack in ages! But I had pretty fond memories of it, even though I remember it being frustrating as hell.

Overall, it’s a really solid, fast paced game that is also tremendously hard after the first few stages. It has strange mechanics that are tough to adapt to but once you do, the gameplay does get a lot more fun. There’s definitely an in-game physics learning curve though.

I like the graphics, the level design (until the last few levels) and the music.

It reminds me of a lot of other scrolling 8-bit platformers but it mostly reminds me of great puzzle games like Solomon’s Key and its sequel Fire & Ice. While this isn’t exactly a puzzle game, it just feels similar to those other ones.

I did beat this game but I had to play it on an emulator with infinite lives. I don’t think I could’ve beaten it otherwise, as it can get pretty maddening towards the end, as some jumps are incredibly difficult and you get easily overwhelmed by enemies.

For the record, I got the bad ending because just getting that one was hard enough.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Solomon’s Key, Fire & Ice, Kid Icarus and the early Mario games.

Video Game Review: The Guardian Legend (NES)

This is a game that I had never played. I remember seeing the box on shelves at most of the mom and pop video stores around me but I didn’t rent it because the box art didn’t really tell me anything about the game and frankly, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to convey now that I’ve played this.

I’m glad that I gave it a shot, all these years later, but I only did so due to an article I read about underrated NES games. This one sounded cool because it has different modes of play: one that plays like an outer space version of 1942 and another that plays like a bird’s eye view dungeon game similar to the original Zelda but with a futuristic sci-fi atmosphere.

This also reminds me a lot of Crystalis, which I played through recently and adored.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to do but it didn’t take long for me to figure things out. The only real trouble I had was opening some of the gates, as the later ones in the game all require you to do something unique to access them. But none of that ruined the gameplay and the only time I really got stumped, I figured it out fairly quickly.

For a game that is, more or less, two games in one, both modes are well designed and a hell of a lot of fun. The game, at its best, is pretty refreshing and exhilarating.

The Guardian Legend is a game that probably would’ve been a massive hit had it existed in the time of the Internet. I just don’t know anyone who played it and because of that, I never heard a buzz about it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Crystalis and the 8-bit era Gradius games.

Video Game Review: Spy Hunter (NES)

I wanted to replay the arcade version of this game but I couldn’t get the rom to work on MAME. So I went back and played the original Nintendo port of the game, as I still own the cartridge.

This is one of those games that I used to play a lot, whether it was the arcade or Nintendo version. Granted, at the time, I didn’t know that it just replays in cycles and that there isn’t really an end to it.

The NES version of the game was the one I played most and for a port of the arcade version, it’s really well done and not too different.

Spy Hunter is still fun to play but I guess I am less motivated at trying to conquer it since you actually can’t. It’s an endless loop and because of that, there’s not much about it that feels rewarding.

In fact, the most rewarded I ever felt playing it, as a kid, was when I used to reach the boat dock and then got to play the boat stage, which usually led to a pretty quick death.

Based off of the game’s box art, which featured a bunch of vehicles, I always assumed that the game had all sorts of playable modes that were just really hard to access, due to the game’s difficulty once you get to the boat stage.

Other kids my age thought the same thing, as there was always that one kid that claimed he flew the plane or drove the motorcycle. Now I know that those kids were liars.

Anyway, this is still a good game and a good way to kill twenty minutes but without a real objective, it seems kind of pointless.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other vertical scrolling vehicle shooters for NES.

Video Game Review: Super C (NES)

Contra was a massive game for the original Nintendo. Super C, its first sequel also did well but it wasn’t a phenomenon like its predecessor. I think that the reason why has a lot to do with the Konami Code giving you 30 lives in Contra but only 10 in Super C, a game that was actually harder.

For the most part, this plays and feels exactly like the first game except for one major change.

The levels in the first game where you walk through two fortresses with your back to the camera and move forward in almost a 3D effect are now replaced with vertical scrolling bird’s eye view levels, which kind of suck. The main reason is that jumping is disabled due to the mechanics of the level and therefore, evading a volley of bullets from baddies is much more difficult. I’m not sure why they changed this but I prefer the alternate non-side scrolling levels of the first game a lot more.

However, the game sort of makes up for that mistake in the level design of the standard side scrolling levels. We now have levels that feature side and vertical scrolling, as well as slanted platforms that add to the challenge but make this game feel more advanced.

I also thought that most of the boss battles were really fun, even if the bosses here aren’t as iconic as those from its predecessor. In regards to bosses, my only complaint is that the final boss is one of the easiest in the franchise and a total cakewalk as a final boss. But at least the boss looked damn cool.

Ultimately, this isn’t as good as the first game but it’s still in the same ballpark and for fans that love Contra that haven’t actually given Super C a fair shot, it’s worth your time, especially because its just like playing new levels in a game you already love. But with less lives available, it’d behoove you to be less reckless.

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. But definitely the original Contra.

Video Game Review: Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (Gameboy)

As much as I have liked firing up and playing the original Kid Icarus every few years since I was a kid, I had never played its sequel, which was released on the Gameboy, as opposed to the original Nintendo.

I feel like this is a severely underutilized franchise and to date, there have only been three Kid Icarus games made. Granted, the character of Pit does make appearances in other games, sometimes as simple cameos and sometimes as a playable character like in the Super Smash Bros. game series.

Despite quite a lengthy break between the first game and this one, Of Myths and Monsters doesn’t really break any new ground. In fact, this almost exactly follows the template of the first game in how it goes from vertical scrolling levels to side scrolling ones and then gives you a fortress at the end of each world that can scroll in either direction.

Furthermore, this has the same amount of levels, laid out the same way. The graphics almost look identical, even though this lacks color, and the mechanics function about the same, although platform jumping seems a bit improved here.

My only real complaint is lack of color, which couldn’t be avoided due to the Gameboy platform at the time. However, the final level in this is ridiculously insane.

But this chapter in the series does improve one major thing: boss battles.

Where Kid Icarus had lame, easy to beat bosses that were still incredibly tedious to fight because of their hit count, Of Myth and Monsters actually gives us some cool bosses, especially the final boss, that aren’t as maddening to fight.

But even with better bosses, this is still bogged down by the last level and the black and white presentation. So I guess this makes it break even with the original game.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the original Kid Icarus, as well as other NES and Gameboy action fantasy or sci-fi games like the two original Zeldas, Rygar or Metroid.

Video Game Review: Kid Icarus (NES)

I never understood why Kid Icarus didn’t get sequels on the original Nintendo. It was a pretty solid and fun game that was damn challenging. It also took place in an interesting world and the hero of the game was featured in every episode of the super popular Saturday morning cartoon: Captain N: The Game Master.

But then I look at a game like Metroid, a mega hit, and it never got a sequel on the Nintendo either. Who the hell made these decisions at the company, back in the day?

Kid Icarus, like Metroid, Rygar or the Konami space shooter Lifeforce, is both a side scrolling and vertical scrolling game. Some levels are horizontal, some are vertical and then the dungeons are both, as you move from room to room similar to the labyrinths in the original Zelda game.

The mechanics for the game are good, even if there may be a period of adjustment for new players. Some of the platform hopping can be tedious at first but once you get the flow of the game’s controls and physics, it’s not too difficult.

I think that the level design could have been better though, as each level just seems to be sporadic without a lot of logic or sense in the design. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t hinder your progression through the game itself, it wouldn’t have taken much effort to improve this quite a bit. However, other than the dungeons, each level follows a straight, direct path.

My biggest issue is the boss battles. They all just kind of suck and are too time consuming. Maybe I was supposed to use some special item I didn’t pick up or something but having to hit a boss 200 times with a simple arrow just drags down the whole game, kills the momentum and sucks the fun out of the experience.

Still, Kid Icarus is a fun game to play and for it’s era, it gives you a ton of gameplay time from start to finish.

A Nintendo sequel would have been nice though, as it could have refined things, corrected some of the mistakes and been a much better version of this already entertaining game.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other NES action fantasy or sci-fi games like the two original Zeldas, Rygar or Metroid.