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BurgerTime: Playing with Peter Pepper and Mr. Pickle

BurgerTime is another classic arcade game that already looked dated when it hit the NES in 1987. I played BurgerTime on a PC a few times when I was a kid, and it definitely seemed primitive even then. Still, it's fun in a challenging kind of way. In BurgerTime you control a tiny chef named Peter Pepper, who is constructing hamburgers that dwarf him, all the while avoiding anthropomorphic food adversaries. They have very creative names: Mr. Egg, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Hot Dog—whose small size suggests he's actually a cocktail wiener. Peter doesn't cook the burgers (maybe he did that before the game started); he only assembles them by causing their top bun, patty, and lettuce to fall down onto the bottom bun. The ingredients are already vertically aligned along various platforms. To make one fall, he need only walk across it, causing it to fall one platform, which also crushes any enemies below it. If an enemy is on it at the time, it falls down an additional platform and dest

Volleyball: The worst NES sports game?

Volleyball, Pro Wrestling , and Slalom constituted the second wave of games for the NES's sports series, which launched with 10-Yard Fight,  Soccer , Tennis , Baseball , and Golf . These games were popular in the early days of the NES, but they don't hold up today, and Volleyball is no exception. Watch a video version of this review As in those other games, the players are small, identical sprites. You can choose from several different teams, as well as men or women. I'm not sure if these changes are merely graphical, or if the different teams and genders have different difficulty levels. Different sources give conflicting information. It could be carefully tested, but honestly the game isn't worth it and it doesn't matter. This is in large part because the controls are bad. At any given time you control two or three players that move together. There's no easy way to tell who they are, which caused me frequent confusion and missed balls. This is probably the ga

Pilotwings: 30th anniversary

Pilotwings (like F-Zero ) was intended to show off the SNES's Mode 7 scaling graphics. Although its visuals hardly impress today, it looked amazing thirty years ago. How much fun it is to play is another question. Watch a video version of this review The game consists of a series of lessons (or Flight Areas), each of which requires completing objectives. Each objective uses a different vehicle, of which there are four: light plane, skydiving, Rocketbelt, and hang glider. You can do them in any order and are shown the objective, controls, and scoring criteria before you begin. When you complete a lesson, you receive a License Number that is actually a password, which I suppose is clever. The first lesson has two objectives. For the former, you have to fly the plane along a predetermined path (marked with green dots) and then safely land it on the runway. You're graded on accuracy, time, angle, and beam. The first instructor, Tony, tells you that you have 45 seconds, but don'

F-Zero: 30th anniversary

Among its SNES launch titles, Nintendo made sure to include two games that took full advantage of the system's Mode 7 scaling graphics. It needed to prove to parents right off the bat that it was worth spending $200 on a new system that couldn't play all the NES games they had already bought. One of those two games was a racing game called F-Zero (the other is Pilotwings ). Watch a video version of this review F-Zero is a great game. It feels like a classic racer (like Rad Racer ), but with the added gimmick of taking damage. When you hit a wall or other vehicle, not only do you get banged around but you lose some energy on your Power Meter. Your top speed decreases if you lose too much power. When the Meter hits zero, your car explodes! Energy can be regained each lap by driving over a special strip. This is called the Pit Row, so I guess in the 26th century, the pit crew refuels remotely from a ship that hovers overhead. Absorb the healing rays of the Pit Row. The game does a

Super Mario World: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago today, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) launched in the U.S. Leading its small slate of launch titles was the much-anticipated Super Mario World, which in Japan was called Super Mario Bros. 4: Super Mario World . Video version of this review The SNES was a huge improvement over the NES, which is saying a lot since the NES itself was a revolution compared to the Atari 2600. The sound quality and color palettes mean the games still hold up beautifully in 2021, which is not exactly true of NES games. Granted, it can't do CD-quality music, but the 16-bit graphics have become the gold standard of 2D pixel-based designs and have been imitated in loads of retro titles (e.g., Axiom Verge , Blaster Master Zero , and the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters). Furthermore, the technical capabilities mean the system can handle many sprites on screen at once without slowdown or flicker. It also has parallax scrolling and the system's signature Mode 7 scaling. Firing

Pro Wrestling: More than a meme, less than a classic

Pro Wrestling was the first and only wrestling game Nintendo ever made. It's become a bit of a cult classic thanks to its victory text: "A WINNER IS YOU." The game is somewhat impressive for 1987 but like many NES games doesn't hold up that well today. First, the good: the game features six playable wrestlers, each of whom has one or two special moves. King Slender, for example, can perform a backbreaker if you press A while grappling. This fact alone places Pro Wrestling well ahead of all the sports launch titles and both early fighting games ( Karate Champ and Urban Champion ). It is by far the best player-versus-player game I've played so far on the NES (though I only played against the computer). Not only are the characters unique, but they have personality and even stats screens that display when you start the game. Several are based on real 80's wrestlers (King Slender = Ric Flair; Giant Panther = Hulk Hogan; Fighter Hayabusa = Antonio Inoki, a famous

Dragon Buster: It's a bust

On paper, Dragon Buster sounds like a great Japanese arcade game: a side-scrolling dungeon crawler in which you (a boy named Clovis) slay monsters and wizards and collect potions, jewels, scrolls, and other treasure. But when I actually played it, I was disappointed. The stages (dungeons) are made up of hallways, monster rooms, elevators, and a few drops and ledges. Smaller enemies roam the hallways, but each room contains a big monster to fight, such as a Golem or the hilariously-misnamed Bishop, who is an ax-wielding fighting-man. When you defeat it, you collect an item, then continue on your way. In a certain room, defeating the monster will produce an exit instead. Some of the stages are labyrinthine. There are a total of twelve worlds (maps), and you have some choice of which dungeons to do. In the last dungeon of each map, you have to fight a fire-breathing Dragon. Each one has a different weak point that flashes red. The number of dungeons on each map varies greatly, from just o

Gradius (Nemesis): Classic space shooting

Gradius is a classic arcade port on the NES, up there with Pac-Man and Galaga . Released with the title Nemesis in American arcades at the end of 1985, it established a new sub-genre: the side-scrolling shooter. Konami brought it to the NES a year later (under its original Japanese title) with an outstanding port. Some compromises were made, such as removing the vertical-scrolling in some stages and the laser not going all the way across the screen, but it still looks and plays beautifully (flickering sprites notwithstanding). Nintendo's promise to bring fantastic arcade games into your living room was fulfilled. Left: arcade; right: NES In Gradius you control a space fighter jet called the Vic Viper that blasts away spacecraft, dodges myriads of bullets, and avoids obstacles. The gimmick of the game is that you choose which power-ups you want. Whenever you pick up a power-up icon, your menu option shifts to the right. The first option is speed-up, an essential first pick as the V

Ninja JaJaMaru-kun: Lackluster arcade-style platforming

Last month Nintendo added an obscure Famicom title called Ninja JaJaMaru-kun to the NES Switch Online platform. It's an arcade-style platformer from 1985 reminiscent of Namco's  Mappy . Each stage has four floors of enemies to clear, and the screen scrolls a little bit horizontally. JaJaMaru can break brick platforms with his head (not unlike Super Mario), which then allows him to jump between floors. Broken bricks sometimes drop a coin (points), an extra life, or a power-up. The power-ups are medicine (temporary invincibility), a speed-up ball, a throwing star that increases attack range, and a tram car that lets JaJaMaru run over enemies! You have to be careful, though, because broken platforms can also leave bombs that cost you a life if touched. If you collect three different power-ups, a giant frog appears that JaJaMaru rides to destroy all the enemies! As you move through levels, the stage's aesthetic changes a little, and the enemies grow more difficult. They're

Karate Champ: Looks charming, plays terribly

Karate Champ on the Evercade handheld Karate Champ is a port of a 1984 fighting arcade game by Technōs. On the arcade, Karate Champ used a unique two-joystick control system that required different combinations of movements for different attacks. On the NES, however, the A and B buttons had to substitute for the second joystick. Unfortunately, the combinations are not intuitive and are hard to remember. For example, while A throws a reverse punch, if you press it while holding → or ←, you get a kick instead. To do the low punch (the only other punch), you have to press A and B together while holding ↓. Yet normally A and B together give you a roundhouse kick! And there are more combinations. It's necessary to consult a chart while playing, because the whole thing feels very random. The bad controls are made even worse by the baffling hit detection, which causes most apparent hits not to count. The game mimics a karate match, meaning it's point based. Every clean hit should (but