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Showing posts from June, 2021

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