Konami defies all logic and makes a solid game out of an old TV show.
PUBLISHER: Ultra Games
RELEASE DATE: September 1990
Mission: Impossible is a game you rent from Blockbuster and screw around with for a few days OR it’s a game that your parents get for you because they mean well, but they have no idea that Super Mario Bros. 3 is the totally radical game for 1990. My experience was the latter, although substitute ‘parents’ with ‘grandparents.’ My guess is they had fond memories of the original TV show, or possibly even the late 80s remake upon which this game is based, and figured it’d be worth buying. I can’t imagine gambling forty to fifty dollars on a game you don’t know is good, but then again, grandparents always seem to be wealthier than anybody else one knows as a child. Besides, grandkids gotta be spoiled or something. Case in point: it wasn’t long before the situation was rectified with Super Mario Bros. 3.
But I digress. By 1990, the NES had amassed quite the sea of redundant crap, but Mission: Impossible shakes up some formulas: it’s actually a solid, slightly non-linear action platformer.
From the beginning, you’re given three characters to play with, each with two distinct abilities. I looked up their names, for posterity: Max Harte, a burly gent who can shoot long-range and set off what appear to be suitcase bombs; Grant Collier, a slightly speedier man who can punch and throw sleeper gas; and Nicholas Black, a nerd who throws boomerangs and can disguise himself as the enemy. While Mr. Black is probably the weakest character, it benefits you to keep them all alive, as their distinct skills really come in handy throughout each stage – particularly Grant, who is the only one who can unlock doors with his hacking ability.
Out of the six stages, two are short chase stages (one speedboat, and one ski chase, in case you’re curious), while the other four will have you exploring, talking to/shooting people, collecting street passes, turning off switches, avoiding security cameras, among other impossible things. Figuring out where to go next can be trial and error. In the first stage in particular, there are several switches to turn off. If you don’t know where these switches are, you can accidentally walk into a room, believing you’re on the right path, and suddenly the wall will start to push you into the water, killing you instantly (these particular operatives were never taught to swim, apparently). Another example would be walking into a room and getting spotted by a camera – an alarm will sound and a swarm of strange blue creatures with massive pincers will burst into the room and try to kill you (use Max’s suitcase bombs, by the by). Moments like this can be frustrating, especially when each guy basically represents a life, and once he’s dead, he can’t be resurrected; the only way to get all of your guys alive is to continue after a game over.
Even with the occasional snag, Mission: Impossible succeeds for me because of how distinct it is. Certainly when I was seven, I had never played anything like it. The graphics may have been drab, even for the time, but the gritty atmosphere and appropriately moody music captured my attention. Even after playing through a sizable portion of the NES library, I’m pleased to say that Mission: Impossible retains its originality. It’s not a classic, but it gets the blood pumping in the nostalgic portion of my heart.