Top Gun NES Review

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Two years. Well, nearly two years anyway, since the last review on this site. A lot has changed in the two years since the last review but some things don’t seem to change no matter how long time has passed. Princess Peach will still never learn and find herself in situations to be kidnapped by Bowser. Water levels, no matter how good the graphics and what genre of game it is, will always be a pain in the proverbial rear. Platforming games will always start off with a green and lush level to get you started in the game. And finally, after thirty years, can someone please explain how on earth to land the plane on the aircraft carrier?! The last sentence of course refers to everyone’s favourite movie-based NES game which has an almost iconic status, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. So let’s take a look and see if that same passage of time makes the game “plane” bearable or whether it can “jet” into the skies as one of the greats…

 

Top Gun is a video game based off the 1986 movie of the same name, that was released on the NES by Konami in North America in November 1987 and one year later in November 1988 for those in Europe. Those lucky lot. The idea of the game is that there are four missions to complete, starting off with a training mission before progressing to the real meat of the game, shooting down planes in the sky, landing on aircraft carriers, destroying enemy aircraft carriers and also blowing up enemy space shuttles. Whilst attempting to destroy aircraft carriers and planes, they of course are attempting to shoot missiles at you preventing you from completing your duty, generally making nuisances of themselves. The view you have in-game is from the cockpit, making you feel you’re at the heart of the action and can see the enemy planes in the sky and the aircraft carriers down below, rather than being side-scrolling and not feeling like your at the centre of the action. It is touches like that which are welcomed.

 

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Nothing sexual here going on…

 

Upon turning the game on, from the moment the opening credits roll you’re treated to the theme from Top Gun which does sound admittedly well done. If the sights and sounds of the film pumped you up, then the 8-bit rendition in the opening credits does a great job replicating that feeling. Even when you leave the game to run the opening demo, the music is fast paced, rock-inspired and does sound really good – in fact although you the reader cannot see this for yourself, the opening music is being played as this is being written. But you didn’t spend your hard earned cash on a video game to listen to the music and never play the game did you?! Some of you might…but anywho, you press start and are treated to a lovely image of a F-14 Tomcat fighter preparing for take-off, with sound effects reminiscent of the Atari 2600, with it’s ocean waves sounding like nuclear explosions. You’re then taken to a screen where you can select from one of the types of missiles you can use in-game. What is handy is that it doesn’t give just a generic name and the quantity of it that you have – it shows you how powerful it is. This is where the choice lies with you, the gamer. Do you pick a missile that you have more of in terms of quantity but less powerful, or a more powerful missile but less of them? Decisions decisions, personally the middle route is always favoured however the choice as they say, is yours. You pick your missile, and head up to the skies to start blasting enemy planes and missiles that they shoot at you.

 

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The dreaded landing sequence

 

The controls are simple enough, with the A button being your unlimited standard gun, B button being your missile that you have limited quantity of. The d-pad is standard *for a flying game* – this is noted because left and right inputs are simple enough, moving your plane in that direction but pressing the up key makes your plane descend in altitude, and the down key making your plane ascend in altitude. If you are used to plane games this should be second nature to you but if this is the first time playing an aviation-type game, this may take some getting used to. The controls do feel tight although bear in mind that your standard gun can be used anytime but your missile can only be used when locked on an enemy which is shown by a cursor onscreen. As noted earlier, the music in this game is on point, and gets you in the mood to be Maverick yourself. The sound effects however, bland and monotonous and makes you want to use the ejector seat. Flying round to a constant dull drone, broken up by planes flying past and the sound of your gun being fired isn’t the most appealing. If it wasn’t for the fear of missing the awesome-rock based music between levels it would be better putting on the Top Gun Soundtrack and listening to that instead. The graphics, well to be fair in-game they are not the most inspiring. The backgrounds are solid blocks of colour that have little detail in them, the clouds look like popcorn and the planes look okay but there isn’t anything visually that would “take your breath away”.

 

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As noted in the introduction, one of the most memorable parts of the game comes right after completing the training mission, and that is landing your plane on the aircraft carrier. For those of you who have watched other gamers or reviewers playing the game and thought how easy it looks to land the plane, please try it for yourself. The barrage of instructions barked at you on-screen in a short space of time is enough to put the heebie-jeebies into anyone, with it’s “SPEED UP” or “RIGHT! RIGHT!” at the merest hint of an input on the d-pad. At this part, you have to not only control your altitude (which is straight forward enough) but also control the angle in which your plane lands on. You’re constantly monitoring the altitude and speed on the left hand side, whilst also trying to follow the instructions in the bottom centre part of the screen – it is enough to actually put this reviewer off being a plane-driver or fighter pilot in real life. Sometimes as well, it says “UP UP” or “DOWN DOWN”, but does that mean the plane has to be down in angle, down in altitude, or pressing the down d-pad? Some people will read this and think that the plane-landing part is easy, or that it can be done 99 times out of 100, and if you are one of those people then nothing but the greatest of respect to you. Even if you cannot land the plane, you still move on to the second level which then makes you think “What was the point? My plane crashed in the sea” or “I overshot the runway” but here you are starting the next mission blowing up enemy aircraft carriers? As well, there is the refuelling parts of the mission that require precision inputs and an equal sense of frustration but this seems to get overlooked too in favour of the more famous landing sequence.

 

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Calming? I think not!

 

Top Gun has the dubious honour of being memorable and a part of gamer’s childhoods but for all the wrong reasons, ranking up there with such titles on the system as Fester’s Quest. Everyone who owned a NES seemed to have Top Gun, and everyone has the same eye-roll and look of horror when discussing it especially when it came to the plane-landing sequence. It is about time the game is viewed in a different perspective – in the US there were over 700 licensed games but how many of those were memorable? Yes, the plane-landing sequence will go down in gaming history as one of the most frustrating, and no, the graphics aren’t the most detailed and vibrant. But you got to control a jet fighter, shooting at bad guys, blowing up space shuttles and aircraft carriers, and it has the theme from the film! It is odd that a game is remembered for one small part alone, but surely it is best to be remembered for something rather than forgotten about, right? Saying that though, if the best part of a video game is a rendition of the music from the film, you do have to wonder how positive you can spin the game. Overall, the game is worthy of a play at least once, even if it is just to say that you can truly appreciate the landing/refuelling sequences and wear the proverbial badge with pride, to say you attempted it and lived to tell the tale. Was this the game to end a near two-year high hiatus? Hmm….maybe not, but this reviewer had to lift-off and wing it from somewhere…

 

Rating – 2 out of 5

Jurassic Park NES Review

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There are a number of things in life that go well together – Cheese and onion, Vanilla and Coca Cola perhaps even Del Boy and Rodney…but imagine if you could combine THREE of the most beautiful things in the world (warning sarcasm may be approaching) – that is Nintendo, film-based video games and Ocean Software. Imagine the unadulterated joy of those three things mashed together to create something unique so mind-blowing it barely gets repeated. It’s well known within certain game reviewers that in the late 80’s at least, movie-based NES games were developed by the wonderful LJN who provided their own, erm, “unique” take on the films for which they developed the tie-in game for. So how would those bastions of fine gaming (!) Ocean handle something as monumental as Jurassic Park – is it 65 millions in the making for something golden or just something that should be fossilised deep under the earth?

Slanted moving developer logos? Whatever next

Slanted moving developer logos? Whatever next

Jurassic Park is a movie-based video game in which you control the film’s main character Alan Grant as he completes six levels ranging from rescuing people to destroying certain types of dinosaurs, but without the panache of someone saying “ah ah ah you didn’t say the magic word”. Jurassic Park is a top down shooter of which you must collect cards, eggs and destroying dinosaurs in order to progress through the game. Throughout the game you may encounter mystery boxes, which as the name suggests contains a mystery effect – like a Kinder egg but not as fun. Power up’s can range from more health, to another life however on the flip side of the coin you may lose energy or lose a life so the choice really is yours whether you collect the mystery box.

Nothing more sinister than.....Music+SFX

Nothing more sinister than…..Music+SFX

So you power on the game, and having chosen your language (bearing in mind this is the European PAL version so language select may not be present in NTSC versions of the game) you are then faced with an intro screen which can be somewhat terrifying – especially if you have the lights off and the tv volume up. From the bottom of the screen comes a Tyrannosaurs Rex with it’s eyes dilated ready to eat the player up. His mouth is wide open with saliva dripping from it’s mouth as you get to choose how many players should play, if music and SFX should be on and also the hi-score. A nice start to the game but nice starts may not equate to nice finished articles. Upon starting the game your first mission notes dinosaurs have taken over Jurassic Park and that you have to find Tim and rescue him from a herd of giant triceratops.

You can run but you can't hide

You can run but you can’t hide

The game begins from a top down point of view, and although the graphics are bold and defined which for a NES game is good, the colours are somewhat dull and turgid – lots of greens and browns. Oh and those “giant” triceratops are nothing more than pint-sized red baby dinosaurs, though you do get to encounter larger dinosaurs later on. It’s something your poor heart may not be able to cope with, with all the anticipation and excitement of waiting so if you are of a nervous disposition this isn’t for you. So you wander round destroying dinosaurs collecting eggs and keycards wondering if this is what the game will be like, to which it is safe to answer….yes, yes it is. You reach terminals, find out you have the wrong key card for the terminal and then out you go collecting more eggs, more power ups and it is a monotonous circle where you can easily run out of bullets for your gun, so be prepared to jam the d pad down as hard as you can and run away from dinosaurs the size of a dachshund. Beware though that the enemies can come out of nowhere and if they touch you, your health bar goes down quicker than you can say Diplodocus so you’ll need to have the reactions of a Stegosaurus whose had laxatives and lots of raisins.

Continue? Please God no!!

Continue? Please God no!!

As mentioned earlier, for an NES game that was released later in the lifetime of the console the graphics are bold and can easily distinguish what is the tree with the ground to the dinosaurs but the colours leave a lot to be desired. On screen it displays a health counter to the top left, the number of bullets remaining in your gun, and on the top right a score counter, because what game would not be complete without a score counter! The controls are responsive, with the d-pad moving Alan about, the A button moving him around, the B button firing your weapon, the select button cycling through the weapons Alan has, and the start button being as fascinating as pausing the game.

Walk through walls, like David Blaine?

Walk through walls, like David Blaine?

Having played this game for well over an hour and getting nowhere fast, just repeating the same level over and over again collecting the same items time and time again, it’s difficult to know if the game just sucks or this reviewer sucks. The consensus is on the former rather than the latter, and the game is highly forgettable, monotonous and certainly not worth the £40 you would have paid at the time of launch. This game could have been from the masters of film-bases video games LJN, to which applause should be given to Ocean for making a game worthy of their low standards. It simply isn’t worth the time or effort in rescuing Tim and shooting dinosaurs up the proverbial bottom so do yourself a favour, rent the movie instead and enjoy that rather than collecting keycards a la Doom on here, or running away from dinosaurs. Even if this game was 65 million years in the making it wouldn’t have helped…

Rating – 2 out of 5

Wayne’s World NES Review

The Nintendo Entertainment System was known for a number of things in it’s time. It was known for bringing home consoles and the video game industry back from the brink of the well documented 1983 video game crash and restoring pride to the industry. It was known as the starting point for many of video game’s best known characters and franchises such as Mario, Zelda and Metroid to name but a few. For all of this, it was known as well for being a console that had pretty awful games that were licensed off the back of popular films at the time – Jaws, Back to the Future, to name but a few. It seemed even the mighty NES didn’t learn the lessons from such travesties of film games such as E.T on the Atari 2600, but how does Wayne’s World, one of Mike Myers’ most famous creations – released near the end of the console’s life back in 1993 fair up with its competitors, does it party hard or suck as hard?

It’s fair to say that fans of the film, the many of them that there were, would no doubt have been excited about a video game based on the film. It’s highly unlikely you would have played this if you wasn’t. When turning on the game it’s hard not to sing to yourself the intro from the movie, “Wayne’s World! Party Time! Excellent!” anticipating some cheesy yet cheerful 8 bit rendition of this, but what is served is a marker of what to expect in this game – nothing but disappointment. Past the credits the game “starts” by bringing up a still image of a badly-pixellated Wayne and a half-decent looking Garth holding drumsticks – apparently with no bodies attached to them describing how they’d like to do their show as a career – yeah right!

You need a cymbal the size of a UFO to play those drums

After all that, then the game starts. The game is a side-scrolling game, with the most literal meanings from the film interspersed in the levels. The first level starts with you as Garth, who because of his love for music and playing the drums, starts off in a music store. For some reason you have some cosmic ray gun used to destroy – wait for it – cymbals and drums and saxophones all waiting to drain you of your health bar thats in the top left of the screen. Although your health bar is plentiful, coming into contact with enemies makes you lose a chunk of your health a la Megaman, however rather than be immune to being hurt for a brief period of time, like a sadist you come back for more, with the controls slow and clunky and difficult to move away without losing half your life – and that’s just the first level!

Completing this, your treated to another “cut-scene” of sorts, involving the top 10 things Beav says, as though that’s all anyone cares about. After pressing the A-button faster than doing the 100 meter sprint on Track & Field (or pressing Start for quickness) you then control Wayne who possesses no weapons, just a kick like Mortal Kombat that’s about as effective as central heating in an igloo. Again, going through levels of musical instruments, with one of Wayne’s catchphrases plastered through the level, “Way” and “No Way”. Speaking of which, when you turn on the game, your treated to a digitized voice of Wayne saying No Way – and you better get used to it. The enemies you encounter, plus the more than useless weapons you have – especially the lack of weapon in Wayne’s case – your going to hear that voice a lot, for its heard everytime you die.

With images like this, who needs a HD remake?

At random intervals when you’ve completed a level your treated to a bonus stage, though it’s not clear at the start that this is what it is. There’s shelves upon shelves of what looks like fried eggs but could be mistaken for donuts that replenish your health, which does come as a useful bonus, and you have a certain amount of time to collect as many eggs erm I mean donuts as possible. It only seeks to stave off the inevitable, which is an untimely death by contacting enemies and falling down chasms that your supposed to jump. It’s like a snake eating itself, no beginning and no endings, just the same gaining health to then lose it. Great huh? NOT!

The controls of the game are simple enough, d-pad is to move, the A button is to jump and B button to fire your weapon/imitate Skorpion or Reptile from Mortal Kombat with a high kick. Completing the level’s are much easier with Garth giving that he has a gun whilst with Wayne you have to be specific with your kicks by timing them correctly otherwise you lose chunks of your health. The enemies seem to fly and attack too fast, and whack you perpetually to death without any time to turn around, run away and attack them. It is a nice touch if you don’t touch the controller for a few seconds, your treated to the dynamic duo dancing for you on the screen – much better that than some VirtuaGirl dancing on your desktop. But it’s still not enough to save this. The sound effects well its the typical 8-bit fare with the gun sounds and jumps in the right places, and it’s a nice touch to have some form of digitized voices so sound effects wise it’s not too bad however the music is very repetitive with the same 3 notes playing over and over again on a monotonous loop. The music does change, but now would be a good time to get reacquanited your Pearl Jam collection, or whatever melodies the youth of today listen to.

Save yourself from Ribena Purple – watch the DVD instead!

This game was released in 1993, and had the opportunity to go against what Nintendo games based on popular films was – terrible loathesome games that are not a patch on the motion picture. To be fair, the game is not terrible – its just very bad. From the small things such as not being allowed to say The Shitty Beatles and changing it to the Lousy Beatles (what support band would not want to be called that?) because of the Big N and it’s rules and regulations, right to the major flaws of the game, the lack of invincibility when being hit and terrible level design. There’s no variation, just going from left-to-right, fighting bosses of LP records and lazy character design. If ever you were looking for a literal representation of a film in a video game, your right on the money with this one. Copies are scant out in the wild, so unless you want to get drunk and party hard with these two dudes, I’d swerve this game and stick to watching the films, you won’t be disappointed and have more SCHAWING than a children’s playground – not that you want to be hanging round those places…

Rating – 2 out of 5