by Matthew Maas on Thursday, November 15, 2001
I'll get right to the point: this is quite possibly the greatest game ever made for NES and ranks among my top ten games of all time.
DIFFICULTY: This is one of the few games that genuinly spans across great difficulty levels. The first few levels are a breeze. The last few levels are next to impossible.
PLOT: I won't get into the plot, since discovering the plot as you play is one of the best parts of any game. There's not really much to tell, anyway. It's pretty mucher a standard Nintendo plot with few twists.
GAMEPLAY: You play as Mike, and you journey through caves battling mosters with a variety of interesting weapons. Play is bird's-eye-view similar to than of Zelda, but with much better graphics.
The battles in this game are at times both insanely fun and insanely difficult. For the most part, these battles involve running up next to enemies and getting a few quick shots off at them before you have to jump away to avoid getting hit. This may sound pretty basic, but it is combined with obstacle-jumpingm, item collecting, and other curveballs that make for both a fun and challenging quest.
Boss battles are the best part of the game. They are mostly classic arcade-style battles than involve shooting, jumping away quickly, shooting again, and jumping away again, all the while avoiding such obstacles as spinning fireballs and regenerating minions. Some bosses require thinking to figure out how to kill them, but this is not a crucial part of the game. Most bosses are fairly straightforward yet still challenging.
There are a few puzles that must be solved, but these are all fairly easy. In this game, DOING is more difficult than figuring out HOW to do.
The one bad part about the gameplay is that your character is restricted to specific squares on the map (you can't walk half a square up; you either stay where you are or move completely to the next square). It is also impossible to move diagonally. This is at times hindering, but at other times it can actually make the game more interesting, as you must compensate for the square-limitations when timing your attacks. For the most part it isn't noticeable.
All in all, the gameplay is the best part of the game. It is more difficult than in most NES games, but it is by no means impossible.
Graphics: Graphics are pretty much as good as you can get in an 8-bit system.
Cartoon sprites are excellently drawn in battle mode, and sprites of important townspeople you talk to face to face are well-rendered and interesting. The graphics give the game a real feeling of fantasy at times. You forget that you are playing the game and become immersed in the game's world. That's more than can be said for most games, especially on NES.
Graphics are not nearly as good in towns, where you walk around talking to people. Most sprites have at most two cheesy frames, and your own character has the worst sprites of all. I played through the entire game wondering why my character had no arms when in towns, only to later realize that he DID have arms, which were just so poorly rendered that I didn't recognize them. The towns are only a very small part of the game, however, and the poor graphics don;t detract much from the overall feel.
MUSIC: There are only a few short tunes, but they are all keepers. Tunes in town and in caves add to the gave's fantasy feel, and make players genuinely feel like they are in the tropics. One more intense mid-tune is played in the caves just before bosses, which gives the game some genuine suspense. The boss tune is even better.
Some of the best tunes in the game are played only on the last three levels. What makes these levels different? Play and find out.
LASTING APPEAL: The game is fairly long for an NES cartridge. Granted, it's no Mario 3, but it's long enough to get you interested and keep you that way for quite some time. I estimate about 4 hours to beat the game if you already know the way through, 8-10 hours if you're starting from scratch.
Sadly, the game is extremely linear, and there are no side-quests to keep you interested after you beat the game. These are for the most part not missed, since the main game itself is so entertaining.
This is the kind of game that's incredible the first time through, but boring after that. You've only got 10 quality hours with this game, so savor them.
HIGHS: Incredible gameplay, great music, great fantasy feel, challenging
LOWS: Extremely linear, poor graphics in town
BOTTOM LINE: If you don't own it, buy it. If you do, stop reading this and play it.
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