Sunday, July 8, 2012
10 Overlooked and Underrated Gems Part 1: The NES
Depending what generation you’re a part of, you’ll usually wind up having a chain of video game consoles that you’ve no doubt devoted a plethora of time to and have wound up having some sort of impact on your life. For me, there were really 5 consoles that had major impacts on me: the original NES, the Sega Genesis, the Super NES, the original Playstation, and the Sega Dreamcast. All five of these systems had their heydays and their video game libraries range from being well-known to universally recognized, but for every “Super Mario Bros.” and “Sonic the Hedgehog”, there’s a handful of little-known gems that slip through the cracks that not many people know about. Starting here, I’ll be listing ten games for each of the aforementioned consoles that are underrated and overlooked gems, and they wholeheartedly deserve your attention.
The first console I ever owned was the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Its bulky grey box design was a warming sight and featured a whole shitload of classic titles, ranging from all the Mario games to “Tetris”, “Duck Tales”, “Ninja Gaiden”, and more besides. Throughout its long lifespan, the NES featured a barrage of classics as well as a barrage of shitty games, and in between the cracks were these 10 overlooked gems that not many gave a second look to. Here’s 10 underrated and overlooked NES gems:
10. ROBOCOP 3 (1993)
Movie-based games usually suck no matter what, but for some reason, the various Robocop games on the NES were surprisingly good. “Robocop 3” was no different, and wound up being the best of the bunch. Released late in the life of the console, “Robocop 3” featured some surprisingly great graphics and action gameplay, along with some unique features that include having to repair the damage to Robocop in between levels, with various brands of strategy having to get utilized in the process. The game would end up getting ported to the newer 16-bit consoles at the time, and they wound up being horrible shovelware in the process. Still though, the NES version of “Robocop 3” is a surprisingly great side-scroller, and one of the few movie-based games that is worth your time and attention.
9. BUCKY O’HARE (1992)
Based on the little-watched cartoon, Konami took the “Bucky O’Hare” license and transformed it into a challenging and highly wonderful treat. Playing as the title character, you traverse various planets, rescuing your crewmates, and eventually smashing your way through a monstrous alien ship. It’s hard, almost unapologetically hard, but man oh man is it ever satisfying. Wonderful graphics and sound effects, the game surprisingly makes the most out of the limited 8-bit technology of the NES hardware. It’s a rare find (and pricey) but for NES collectors, it’s essential.
8. SKY SHARK (1989)
A scrolling shooter arcade game, this NES port of “Sky Shark” was looked down upon by purists upon release, but over the years it’s gained some appreciation for being a challenging and fun shooter blast. You pilot a biplane taking out hordes of aircraft and ground-based enemies, with bullets and missiles flying at you from every single angle imaginable. In fact, you’ve got shit coming at you all over the fucking place! It’s a hard son of a bitch, but if NES shooter classics like “1942” and “Gradius” are your thing, check out the criminally underrated “Sky Shark”.
7. GOLGO 13: TOP SECRET EPISODE (1988)
What the fuck is a “Golgo 13” you ask? Golgo 13 is the codename of the master assassin and heartless killer for hire that has been the subject of a long-running manga, numerous animated films and series, and even a few live action flicks starring Sonny Chiba back in the day. In “Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode”, you play as the titular assassin, looking to take down an evil organization. There’s side scrolling action and first person shooter gunplay to be had, as well as some surprising bloody violence and sexual situations (remember, this was Nintendo in 1988 for fuck’s sake). The game is plenty enjoyable, but what stops it from being a true classic is the fact that there are just too many little flaws that make the game harder than it needs to be. Still, it’s plenty enjoyable, and one of the most underrated games in the NES library.
6. STREET FIGHTER 2010 (1990)
We all know Street Fighter. Capcom’s long running series has made a shit load of money and spawned numerous spin-offs, cartoons, films, and merchandise throughout the years in the process. But shortly before Street Fighter II became a massive hit in arcades, Capcom crafted this bastard spin-off of the original Street Fighter…well, that’s at least what it seemed like in America anyway. “Street Fighter 2010” was actually a completely different game in Japan, but it was brought over here and featured a title change, character name changes, and other localizations done to make it what it is known as today. Even though it’s painfully obvious that this game has absolutely nothing to do with Street Fighter, it’s a solid and plenty difficult challenge that deserves to be checked out. It’s gotten a whole shit-load of flack since it was first released here (and still does 20 years later) which is a damn shame, because everything about this game, especially the ghoulish and nightmarish graphics and art design, is simply wonderful. It’s punishingly difficult however, so proceed with caution.
5. TINY TOON ADVENTURES (1991)
As a kid I loved Looney Tunes, but I loved Tiny Toons even more. Konami’s “Tiny Toon Adventures” featured classic side scrolling action with super charming graphics. Beneath all that was some damn fine platforming action elements that were some of the best to be seen on the NES that weren’t from a game developed from Nintendo themselves. You control Buster Bunny to start, eventually being able to select Plucky Duck, Dizzy Devil, and Furrball as well. There’s a plethora of secrets and Easter eggs hidden throughout the game as well, making it a super mega enjoyable blast that you’ll spend plenty of time playing.
4. OPERATION WOLF (1989)
Every NES owner fondly remembers the Zapper light gun peripheral, but for the most part they only remember using it for “Duck Hunt”. “Operation Wolf” was one of a handful of other games to use the Zapper, and the best one in the NES library that wasn’t “Duck Hunt”. You shoot endless amounts of baddies through different stages including jungles, airports, villages, and even concentration camps. For its time “Operation Wolf” was kind of brutal and pulled little punches, making it all the more worth checking out for NES players that never got their hands on it back in the day.
3. MIGHTY FINAL FIGHT (1993)
Capcom’s “Final Fight” series is still regarded as being one of the best beat ‘em up franchises in the history of ever. After being a massive hit in the arcades and spawning a flawed port to the Super NES, Capcom took the game and turned it into “Mighty Final Fight” for the NES. The characters were transformed into super-deformed looking fighters (almost looking like bobblehead people) but the excellent fighting action still managed to remain the same. Released late in the life of the NES, the game only saw a limited release run, making it a rare and expensive find nowadays. Still though, “Mighty Final Fight” is one of the absolute best brawlers to play on the NES, and makes games like “Double Dragon” pale in comparison.
2. CLASH AT DEMONHEAD (1990)
An open ended platformer a la “Metroid”, “Clash at Demonhead” is one of the most head-scratching and jaw dropping games you’ll find on the NES. Its non-linear style of play and wonderfully designed stages make you never want to put the controller down, even when it begins to frustrate the ever-loving shit out of you in the process. If you’re wondering why the title of the game sounds so familiar yet you can’t remember playing it for the life of you, the title was used as the name of a band in the “Scott Pilgrim” books and the massively entertaining “Scott Pilgrim VS The World” movie. It also features a protagonist named Bang. That alone should make you want to play this fucking thing.
1. GUERILLA WAR (1989)
SNK had scored a hit on the NES with their port of “Ikari Warriors”, so they took the same formula and applied it to “Guerilla War”, which was also an arcade hit, but wasn’t so much a hit when it hit the NES. The same style of play applies: shoot the living shit out of an endless amount of villains and baddies. Two-player co-op, shitloads of power-ups, and destructible environments made the game an endlessly entertaining classic that was so overlooked by NES players at large that it should be a crime. Oh yeah, you also play as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Yes I’m fucking serious. Check it out goddamnit, thank me later.
Come back next time as I go over the 10 overlooked and underrated gems for the Sega Genesis…bitches.