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#73 – Shadow of the Ninja
Think Ninja Gaiden, but with speedier gameplay, two player co-op, and less cinematics. Shadow of the Ninja doesn’t feel like a rip-off of the Gaiden series, so much as it does an alternate universe; one where Ryu is named “Lord Hayate” and he can grapple onto ceilings as well as walls.
Just another quirky side-scroller… or is it?! In Conquest, you have a German Shepherd for a companion. Excellent! As you explore ancient crystal palaces, time continues to move – day shifts slowly into night and back to day. Awesome! If you lose all your lives, you get hung upside down over a fiery pit until you press ‘Continue.’ Take that, other side-scrollers!
You’re in Tom Guycot’s hood now, and he doesn’t take kindly to fools rompin’ round his routes. Billy “Big Bang” Blitz cares not for Guycot’s rules. Routes aren’t mere by-ways for the Seven Governors. They should be open and free to the populace at large! If Clash at Demonhead has taught me anything, it’s that politics are evil. And that, occasionally, style trumps substance.
Something something “Hyrule” something something “Triforce” bla bla “Link” rabble rabble “Ganon.” That’ll do. If you’ve so much as glanced at an NES, you know what Legend of Zelda is. It’s a classic! An epic! A game-changer! Dare I say… a legend? Yeah, it’s good. Good enough to put at #70 on a list.
Doff a baker’s cap and start kneading that dough! Yoshi’s Cookie is about putting two cookies next to each other so they’ll disappear. Sound like every puzzle game ever? Well, yeah, I guess it does. But these aren’t inedible Tetris pieces. These are delicious Yoshi-shaped cookies that cry out as you eat them. It’s an addicting moral dilemma!
Rad Racer does racing very well. And if you think that’s a simple task, go take Al Unser Jr.’s Turbo Racing for a “spin.” The sense of speed is phenomenal, as is the rollicking soundtrack. Too bad the station wagons next to you can’t appreciate your sick ride. Teach ’em a lesson all the way back to Nebraska.
Pirates! isn’t just about pirates (!). It’s about forging your own destiny in a cruel, heartless world. You may be a pirate, pillaging and plundering out on the high seas. But what about politicians, kings, and corporations who steal from the working man in secret, or through written law? Pirates! asks you to consider who the real pirates are; as well as an 8-bit game can, anyway.
I have a soft spot for the original Baseball. The outfielders who can’t throw! The infielders who can’t catch! The base runners who decide to stop at second when they could keep running to third! The computer who cheats mercilessly! And two-player, blessed two-player – where it really is anyone’s game, thanks to how busted the game is. I know Baseball is terrible, but I love it.
I can tell you this much: you won’t be taking your sweetie out for a “puzznic” on a lovely spring day. Not unless you want her head to get crushed by blocks filled with shapes. Like Yoshi’s Cookie, Puzznic lives and breathes on placing two of the same shapes next to each other. Puzznic‘s levels mean business, though: one false slip and your sweetie’s out to puzz whether you like it or not.
Nightshade is one of two awesome noir adventure games to hit the NES. It’s also the only good game to come out of Beam Software, arguably the worst developer on the NES. Filled with humor, puzzles, and moody ambience, Nightshade is as close as you’ll get to Monkey Island on the NES.
I’ll admit it: early on in my Quest, I didn’t “get” Koei games. I knew they were well-made, but they overwhelmed my senses. The original Rot3Kchanged my perception of them, while Rot3K II made me love them. I became wonderfully lost in the historical settings and scenarios, not to mention the sheer amount of options. Every Koei fan has their favorite. Rot3K II just happens to be mine.
Firehawk glorifies the destruction of everything via one “lone ranger” helicopter. The more buildings, bridges, and tanks you destroy, the more you will want to destroy. Even when you’re rescuing hostages, you’re shooting at planes that are trying to sabotage your rescue. Firehawk means business. Firehawk is business.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze would say, “Let’s kick some ice!” In Kickle Cubicle, the world has been turned to ice, thanks to Al Gore and his global warming goons. Your job is to dethaw the world by collecting Dream Bags. The properties in Dream Bags melt the icecaps, ensuring yummy, sunny days for all.
The first two Wizards + Warriors games were interesting, but they centered too heavily on janky, worthless combat. Wizards + Warriors III focuses on exploration, while giving Kuros, the main character of the series, the ability to change into a wizard, knight, or thief. Sadly, few played the third entry, Microsoft purchased Rare into their collective, and the series disappeared.
Got your Rush/The Who/Led Zeppelin mix tape ready to blare? You’re gonna need it for Pinball Quest, a veritable feast of plunking delights. Two distinct tables – “Pop! Pop!” and “Viva! Golf” – and an RPG-mode with six levels will have you tilting until your Mom yells at you to turn down Roger Daltrey.
Micro Machines accurately recreates what’s it like to play with miniature cars in an oversized world. Race around breakfast, school supplies, bathtubs, and other horrifying enlarged versions of items you probably own. Every race is a new, yet eerily similar adventure.
If anyone were to get into misadventures on the dodgeball court, it’d be Kunio-kun and his gang of street toughs. Super Dodgeball puts the time-honored recess game onto the world stage. Naturally, you play as Team USA: they’re loud, they’re proud, and they can hit other countries really, really hard.
The title screen calls Rainbow Islands “Bubble Bobble II” which makes Bubble Bobble Part II a vicious, time-sucking lie. And anyway, Rainbow Islands is the best rainbow-generating, ice-cream munching version of Bubble Bobble that Taito ever produced. You’d be a grade-A bub not to play it.
S.C.A.T.‘s a lot like Contra except instead of running on the ground, you float in the air! And you have orbs that fly around you and shoot at futuristic evil! And you can set them in any direction you choose! If only all games were kinda, sorta like Contra.
Mendel Palace might sound like a place where flabby Republicans argue and shake their jowls liberally, but it is, in fact, a delightful little arcade game where you rescue your best friend from her killer doll collection. I’d tell you more than that, but it’s best if you explore the palace on your own.
If the NES library were a phone book and you were calling each game alphabetically, Zombie Nation would be the final game on your call list. And you’d be tired and cranky and you might even think that you hate the NES. Then Zombie Nation would tell you about its greased-up old men and vomiting zombie heads and you’d think, “Boy, I’m glad I made it to Z.”
There are more baseball games for the NES than every other sport combined, but Baseball Stars is the one that will be remembered. You could play as ninjas, you could play as horror movie stars – heck, you could even recreate “A League of Their Own” and play as women (joking, ladies). The tight controls, ace mechanics, and extraordinary field play are why fans return to this game nearly twenty-five years later.
Kiwi Kraze was originally titled The New Zealand Story, and it involves you, as a Kiwi bird, rescuing other Kiwi birds from zoos across the country. Armed guards, snails, and other New Zealand zoo creatures will prevent their rescue. After Lorde, Gotye, “Flight of the Conchords,” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, I’m glad to see New Zealand finally get its due with Kiwi Kraze.
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