Skip to main content

Hogan's Alley: It's no Duck Hunt

I once played Hogan's Alley in a Chuck E. Cheese's (back when it was primarily an arcade). Years later, I sought to buy an NES copy, but never found one. Well, I have finally fulfilled that childhood wish (albeit on Wii U Virtual Console, using the Wii Remote). But after two decades, it was a bit of a letdown.

Hogan's Alley launched alongside fellow "shooting gallery" games Duck Hunt and Wild Gunman. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who found the idea of shooting bad guys on my TV appealing. As in all these early arcade-style games, you can choose between multiple modes. In Game A, you have a certain amount of time (sometimes less than a second!) to shoot the bad guys from a line-up of three. There is always at least one good guy (Lady, Professor, and Police) that, if you shoot, counts as a miss. Ten misses and you're done. Pretty simple, and not especially engaging.

In Game B, you are in the eponymous Hogan's Alley (police shooting range), which includes a gun shop, construction site, and building with four big windows. Carboard cut-outs pop out in certain positions and remain on screen for a shorter or longer period of time. Sometimes two come out almost at the same time. When you finish a complete sweep of the alley, you start over again at a faster speed. After every two rounds, the color palette changes. Ten misses (or hits of innocents!) and you're out.

Game C is shooting cans. They don't sit on a fence but slowly fly through the air. When you shoot a can, it bounces up into the air and then continues arcing downwards. The goal is to get them to the left side of the screen, where there are three slots. The top slot is worth 300 points, the middle 800 points, and the bottom a whopping 5000 points. Once you let ten cans fall out the bottom of the screen, you're done. This mode is surprisingly fun. I quickly got 100,000 points, but it's hard to consistently prevent the occasional can from dropping, inching you ever closer to Game Over.

As cool as Hogan's Alley is, I tired of it more quickly than Duck Hunt. In that game the ducks move around unpredictably. In Hogan's Alley, the positions are fixed. Especially in mode A, the game is all about reflexes: how quickly can you identify whether it's a good guy or a bad guy? Can you do it in less than 0.8 seconds? Duck Hunt, in contrast, is pure shooting. Can you shoot the ducks before they fly away? This is more enjoyable, especially if your reflexes aren't so good. If nothing else, you can shoot at the ducks wildly!

Grade: D+

Linked Reviews
"Unless you see yourself trying to beat your highscores a whole lot, Hogan's Alley really doesn't have a whole lot going for it."
— Marcel van Duyn, Nintendo Life5/10

"While not the deepest experience, this is a fine Zapper diversion, which shows off some nice early NES sprites and the early, fun tone of the system."
— Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library, 3/5

"Perhaps the most interesting thing you can say about it is that a year after the NES’s mainstream release in the U.S., the FBI opened a target training facility called Hogan’s Alley that closely resembled the game’s Mode B."
— Jeremy Parish, NES Works


Popular posts from this blog

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.

Mario Kart 64: 25th anniversary

Mario Kart 64 brought the fun of go-kart simulator Super Mario Kart into the 3D age. A few chunky polygons notwithstanding, Mario Kart 64 still holds up, even alongside sequels like  Mario Kart 8 Deluxe . MK 64 doesn't alter the fundamental formula laid down by Super Mario Kart. You still choose one of four circuits (Mushroom, Flower, Star, or Special) and an engine speed (50, 100, or 150 CC), then race against seven other racers, trying to place at least in the top four. Whereas the SNES allowed only two players, the N64 was built with four controller inputs, and MK 64 happily can use them all (though the music shuts off with more than two). Battle Mode returns as well, in which players attack one another with items, trying to pop all three of their opponents' balloons. This is always a blast when playing with friends. Lastly, there is the Time Trial mode, in which you race alone trying to set the fastest time. Is this the origin of the "Trollface" meme? MK 64's

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts: 30th anniversary

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is an SNES-exclusive sequel to Ghouls 'n Ghosts, itself a sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins . Like its predecessors, its claim to fame (or infamy) is being ridiculously hard. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts follows the formula of Ghosts 'n Goblins to a tee. You control a knight named Arthur who must rescue Princess Guinevere by battling endless hordes of monsters and demons: Zombies, Ghosts, Weredogs, Bats, Red Arremers, and even Mimics (the D&D monster that disguises itself as a treasure chest). He picks up various weapons along the way but can only hold one at a time. Some of them (especially the torch) are worse than the throwing spears he begins with. Three new weapons are the crossbow, scythe, and tri-blade. The crossbow is good because it shoots two arrows at once, at about 45 and 30 degree angles upward. I avoid the scythe because Arthur can throw only one at a time and the ability to arc it downward by holding ↓ does not compensate for this. The