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Lode Runner: Brick-breaking, gold-grabbing puzzle platforming

Lode Runner has a lot in common with Spelunker . Both were originally computer games published in the early 80's. Both are arcade-style platforming games in which you collect treasure. Both were ported to the NES in 1987. And both NES versions were published by Brøderbund! Lode Runner is the better game, although that's not saying much. Each stage of Lode Runner consists of various platforms connected by ladders and horizontal ropes. To beat a stage you must collect all the heaps of gold coins lying about, then exit via a ladder that appears at the top. The game has a lot in common with Wrecking Crew and BurgerTime , especially in the fact you must constantly evade enemies that home in on you, and you can't jump . Your only defense is to create a hole in the brick floor to the left (press B) or right (press A). It's not clear by what mechanism this occurs: a gun? A magic wand? Definitely not a shovel. Anyway, the enemy often walk into the holes you make. While an enemy

Spelunker: Is this the worst NES game?

Spelunker on the NES may be the worst video game I've ever played. It was originally released for the Atari computer in 1983 and then the Commodore 64 in '84, and it shows. By the time it came to the NES in 1987, it was very dated. Spelunker is a platforming adventure game in which you explore a cave, picking up keys and other items. Proceeding to the next section of the cave (stage) requires getting the keys to open the red and blue doors. Various hazards stand in the spelunker's way, such as rocks, ditches, and piles that shoot steam. Falling in a ditch or getting blasted with steam kills the spelunker instantly. He can pick up bombs and then use them (press ↓ and B) to blow up rocks obstructing his path. You have to run away immediately or the explosion kills the spelunker, too! There are only two enemies: bats that poop on the spelunker, which kills him , and a ghost that keeps showing up and giving chase. The ghost can be defeated with your gun, called the Phantom Blas

Milon's Secret Castle: A baffling action-puzzler

Milon's Secret Castle is an action-puzzler from Hudson Soft. It stars a boy named Milon, who must wend his way through the titular secret castle, while attacking enemies with bubbles. According to the manual, he seeks to rescue Queen Eliza, who has been imprisoned inside the castle by a warlord. The castle is navigated by doors on the outside. Behind each door is a small stage, shop, or boss fight. Stages are standard platforming fare, with many blocks. Some of these blocks (you can't tell which) are removed when shot with a bubble. A few of these leave behind money, which can only be collected once. For some reason, a single stage on the third floor regenerates its hidden money, enabling you to get as much as you need. Various enemies spawn throughout the stages and can be destroyed by bubbles. Often they drop a heart to refill a point of health, and occasionally an umbrella that speeds up the bubble fire rate. Milon can be hit repeatedly by the same enemy in rapid succession,

Metroid: Hunting aliens and haunting music

I loved Super Metroid as a child, but I never had a chance to play the original Metroid until the 3DS Virtual Console. When I finally did, I fell in love with it. Metroid is the sister game to Kid Icarus . It uses the same combination of vertical-scrolling and horizontal-scrolling sections. You control Samus Aran, a legendary "bounty hunter" (she's only called this in the West and doesn't collect bounties) hired by the Galactic Federation to recover flying jellyfish called Metroids. These are dangerous, life-sucking creatures thought to be responsible for the destruction of the civilization of the planet SR-388. The space pirates who stole the Metorids have set up a base on the planet Zebes, where coincidentally Samus finds power-ups compatible with "his" cybernetic suit. The main power-ups are held by mysterious statues of unknown bird-people. If you beat Metroid fast enough (under five hours), Samus removes "his" helmet to reveal that she was a

Athena: More mediocre than magical

Athena on the NES is a port of the 1986 platforming arcade game of the same name, produced by SNK, a company that later became famous for its cartridge-based arcade system, the Neo Geo. In Athena you play as the titular Goddess of Wisdom (according to the manual), who has been transported into a "Fantasy World" filled with "strange and fearesome creatures." She begins the game unarmed, in her underwear (the arcade intro shows her dress being blown off!), and must resort to kicking enemies for self-defense. Fortunately, pig-men called Momos drop clubs and hammers she can wield. The strength of Athena's current weapon is shown at the top of the screen next to the letter S. With the club and the hammer, Athena can smash blocks found throughout the game, some of which conceal armor, helmets, and shields. These pieces of armor comes in three tiers (bronze, silver, and gold) and are imperative to survival. The helmet also lets Athena break blocks with her head, which

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: 30th anniversary

Hard to believe it's been thirty years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came out on the Super Nintendo, yet here we are! A Link to the Past is in contention for the title of Best Nintendo Game Ever . It perfectly reinvented, reimagined, and revolutionized everything great about the original Legend of Zelda . First off, the story is expanded, with five pages devoted to it in the manual, including background mythology not included in-game about the three gods that made the Triforce. The opening cinematic tells of a war centuries earlier, which resulted in seven wise men sealing the Triforce away in the "Golden World." When the game begins, the boy Link awakens on a dark and stormy night, hearing the voice of Princess Zelda in his head, asking him to rescue her from the dungeon of Hyrule Castle, where she's been imprisoned by the evil wizard Agahnim. Link finds his uncle, wounded, who gives him his sword. Link's first task is to rescue Zelda, then lead h

The Legend of Zelda: The best of the best on the NES

The Legend of Zelda needs no introduction: everyone knows Link and Zelda well. In Nintendo lore, they are overshadowed only by the brothers Mario and Luigi. Both games, of course, were developed by the same man, Shigeru Miyamoto. Nintendo knew they had a hit on their hands with The Legend of Zelda, as evidenced by their decision to house the game in a gold-colored cartridge. What most stands out about The Legend of Zelda is that it is an open-world game. You are immediately thrust into a vast world, seen in overhead perspective, with no directions other than to find the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, which Princess Zelda scattered and hid to keep them out of the hands of the evil Prince Ganon. Our young hero Link, clad in green, stands before the dark entrance to a cave, in which he will hear those iconic words: "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this." Without further ado, he receives his trusty sword. When Link is at full health, his sword also fires a projectil

Doom 64: 25th anniversary

Doom 64 turns 25 years old today! It's an N64-exclusive sequel to the popular first-person shooter Doom 2. And it's easy to play today because it was re-released in 2020 across all platforms and costs only $5 to download! The concept of Doom 64 is the same as in the original Doom: you are "Doomguy," a marine who has found himself in hell and must slay many demons to escape. Each stage (of which there are 28) is basically a maze containing a red door, yellow door, and blue door. You must find the corresponding key to open each door. To find the keys you must activate switches that open new paths. Opening doors and hitting switches usually reveals gun-toting zombies or fireball-tossing imps and demons. Even the best player is likely to take a few potshots from ambushes. Health, armor, and ammo drops help keep you alive. Quite a few secret areas may be found by pressing on random walls. For completionists, at the end of each level you are shown what percentage of the sec

Contra III: The Alien Wars: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago today Konami published Contra III for the SNES, a sequel to the wildly popular Contra and Super C on the NES. Unlike those games, Contra III is not based on an arcade game but was made specially for the Super NES. The Contra series is considered the pinnacle of the run-and-gun genre. Especially because of the high volume of alien enemies, the games are best enjoyed with two players. Interestingly, Contra III lets you choose between full-screen and split-screen, the latter letting the players separate. As with almost every SNES sequel, Contra III basically recreates the original NES game with 16-bit technology, audio, and visuals. Not having played it before, I was surprised to discover that it contains only six levels, two less than the NES games! That's a bit disappointing. It takes speed runners only twelve minutes. In all the classic Contra games, the first player controls Bill and the second Lance, who seek vengeance for a devastating attack in the year 2636

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja: A whimsical adventure in Japan

Growing up, I played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja at my best friend's house (though I was bad at it), and I had been looking forward to trying it again. It's an unusual, fun adventure game. I recently learned that in Japan Legend of the Mystical Ninja was preceded by three Famicom games and followed by three more Super Famicom games, none of which were localized for the West! The Japanese name of the series is Go for It, Goemon! It's based on a 1980 Japanese arcade game called Mr. Goemon. The emulation community put out fan translations of the Famicom games between 2009 and 2017. Surprisingly, no translations of the Super Famicom games existed until 2020, all three created by the same people . The series takes places in early-modern Japan. It has a light-hearted anime aesthetic. The titular character is a spiky-haired kid named Goemon. If a second player joins the simultaneous action (highly recommended), Goemon is assisted by an older, overweight ninja named Ebisumaru.