Because I don't have enough things to do.

imagesBecause I don't have enough things to do--a full time job, a wife, taking care of a two year old and another child on the way, studying Japanese like a mofo, and trying to play through my growing backlog of games while also keeping on top of the latest releases--I've decided to finally get on my ass and start turning this blog into a book.

All the entries have been downloaded and turned into an Excel spreadsheet. Now comes the fun part of editing, researching, editing some more, and proofreading.

For 750+ entries. Plus new content for unlicensed games I missed during the first go-round, as well as coverage of every major accessory, and some other features I'm still percolating on.

The idea is not so much an encyclopedia or price guide--I'm sure those exist and are exhaustive--but a Player's Guide to Collecting. I figure most collectors are like me, people with limited funds who want maximum bang for their buck. I have helpfully played through every NES game for you, so you can take my handy guide to your local flea market/convention/used game store and see what games are worth buying and for roughly how much.

"Why not just use the internet?" Because fuck you, that's why. Because it's fun to hold a physical guide in your hand (in my mind's eye it's a smallish book, the size of two Farmer's Almanacs taped together, and the same kind of paper).

Because I don't have enough fucking things to do.

The Princess is in Another Castle.

Super Mario Bros. 2 201205182040218And that’s it. A little under four years later and I’ve played through every licensed NES game and bitched about it on the internet. I’m surprised as anyone I made it this far without my interest flagging.

But there is still a little more to come. Notice I said “licensed”. I realized about halfway through this project that I’d already covered some unlicensed games without meaning to, so now I want to go back and get them all. I’d always planned to, I guess, but I was hoping I would never need to play Bubble Bath Babes ever again.

So a short break, then once more into the breach, and then another break. I’ve got a lot of games on other systems piling up, and a number of other projects that I’ve also put on hold in order to focus on the blog. And I want to get cracking turning this thing into a proper book. As soon as I figure out what format it should take. And how to make a book.

Should be interesting.

Zombie Nation

Zombienation coverBesides false advertising this game may be the strangest one on a system that had some bizarre-ass games.

So…you control a giant floating samurai head that shoots fire at buildings, vehicles, and other obstacles. It’s… Yeah. It’s fucking weird.

It’s also decidedly not about zombies, which still pissed me off.

At least it’s pretty and sounds okay.

Time played: 10 minutes.Zombie Nation 201207262034459
How was it?: Okay, I guess.
Will you play it again?: No.

Zen: Intergalactic Ninja

zen_intergalactic_ninja.cover.frontIsometric is not my favorite perspective for any game that requires precision. In Diablo, in a tactical RPG it’s fine because you’re usually afforded a fine degree of control; you can click on or point to exactly what you want to do and press a button to make it happen. In action games, particularly on the NES, you’re fighting the limitations of the controller and system which leaves no one happy.

Which is why it’s so surprising that I enjoyed Zen as much as I did, even though, I have to admit, I didn’t get past the first stage in my twenty minutes with the game. (I wasn’t really trying. *cough cough*)

But someone at Konami clearly felt the same way I do and said, “Isometric controls usually suck. How can we make them not suck?” I don’t know how they did it, but they did. Jumping from platform to platform—something you have to do a lot even in the early goings—is easy.

And the whole “intergalactic ninja” thing? I don’t know what that is but I love the concept. Especially if that means there’s a space Japan and galactic samurai running around. And that’s something I can get behind.

Time played: 20 minutes.
How was it?: Very good.
Will you play it again?: Oh yeah.

Zelda II: The Adventures of Link

zelda_ii_the_adventure_of_link.cover.front.2Zelda II is weird, as is the way of first sequels. Developers try to feel out what it meant to be that first game, what did players like the most about it, what needs to change? Most gamers agree that, while not a bad game, the developers of Zelda II got the answers to those questions wrong.

Gone is the top-down perspective. Gone are most of the puzzle solving elements. It’s all been replaced by an action RPG. Battles are conducted from a side perspective. There’s an experience system. Outside of battles and towns you travel on a Dragon Warrior style overworld map. It’s so radically different from what came before that it doesn’t even feel like Zelda anymore. I owned it as a kid but that novelty turned me off time and time again.

The experience system didn’t help.

100 points gets you to the next level, but death or saving and coming back to the game resets the current counter to zero. (If you think that’s harsh, in the Japanese version upon death or resuming a saved game the levels—attack, life, and magic—would start at the lowest level of the three. So if attack was 4, life was 3, and magic was 1, all three would be level 1. Fuck!)

I didn’t understand the experience system until fairly recently, so I never understood why I could progress very far. I mean, why on earth does Zelda expect me to grind?

It’s also a hell of a lot harder than the first game. Combat is quick and brutal, and you need to have good reflexes. You think the knights that could only be hit in the back were annoying? How about knights that raise and lower their shields to deflect your blows.Zelda II - The Adventure Of Link 201207262032257

Zelda II is a weird game, and nowhere close to my favorite Zelda game, but it’s also not my least favorite (fuck you Spirit Tracks). It’s an interesting hybrid of action and RPG that doesn’t succeed as well as, say, Crystalis, but it’s still well worth playing.

Time played: Hours.
How was it?: Better the farther you get into it. The beginning is rough.
Will you play it again?: Yeah, it’s time to finally beat it.


zanac-coverHow do you like your shooters? I hope you said, “As old school as shit” because that’s what Zanac offers.

At least on the surface. Under the hood there are some interesting things going on. According to the manual the game adapts to how well you’re doing and what you manage to destroy. Specifically, the more you shoot the stronger the enemy becomes.

…Which explains a lot. Hold on.

When played like that the game gets a lot more interesting. It becomes less a game about shooting everything in sight and more about picking your moments and dodging damn near everything.Zanac (U) 201207261406393

Still, I stick by the old school assessment. But I realize now the game is saying, “You like your games old school? What if I tweak the game like this?” and then your world falls apart because it’s such a simple change but one you’re unprepared for.

Very neat.

Time played: 30 minutes.
How was it?: Interesting.
Will you play it again?: Probably not, but if you like shooters this game’s worth a look.

Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

young indy coverChrist. First Hanna Barbara and now Indiana Jones. Is there nothing the NES can’t make me like?

The first thing I noticed when I started playing is how much the game plays like a fast Castlevania. Castlevania meets The Lone Ranger, only without the town parts and more dogfighting.

The control is super smooth and responsive. You guide Young Indy through a number of exciting locales and whip bad guys to death.

Actually, there are a number of weapons you can use, all of which factor into the interesting health system. At the top of the screen you see three boxes, each of which can hold one item. From left to right it’s weapon, shield, support. Each one can take a hit, in reverse order. When you have none left and you get hit you die.

My one problem with this system is there’s no way to choose what weapons you want other than to avoid picking up new weapons. There’s no storing them, so switching between them. And, if you get hit you lose your current weapon and are reduced to punching stuff. The problem with that is enemies and your first both have small hitboxes, so you’ve got to get really close to do damage. Usually close enough that you get hurt yourself in the process. Which means hello again to the beginning of the level.Young Indiana Jones Chronicles 201207261355564

Yep, death sends you to the beginning. Losing all your lives and using a continue sends you to the beginning of the stage. Yeah, super fun.

But Young Indy is super fun. It’s exciting, it’s fast paced, it controls like a dream. It’s damn near everything you could want in an action game.

Time played: 20 minutes.
How was it?: Really damn good.
Will you play it again?: Most definitely.

Yoshi's Cookie

yoshis_cookie.cover.frontThis is a twist on the usual falling-block puzzle. See if you can stay with me here, because I’m not entirely sure I understand it myself.

You start with a bunch of random cookies (shapes). More cookies will fall from the top and the right of the screen. Move the cursor to the row/column you want to move. Hold the A button and press the D-pad in the direction you want the cookies to move. That whole row or column will move; cookies on the end will wrap around and come back from the other side. When one row or column is all one type of cookie that row or column disappears.

Ah. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

So it’s part falling-block game, part sliding-block puzzle game.Yoshi's Cookie 201207261342031

As for how much fun it is…it’s not my type of game. It’s good, but not for me.

Time played: 10 minutes.
How was it?: S’okay.
Will you play it again?: I doubt it.


250px-Yoshi_game_coverYoshi or Yoshi no Tamago as it’s known in Japan [I only know that because I was reading an old Nintendo Power last night that had a preview of the game with the title screen in katakana] is yet another falling-block puzzle game. But unlike the last falling-block puzzle game we looked at that starred Nintendo characters, Wario’s Woods, this one is actually fun.

Two Mario enemies will drop from the top of the screen at a time. If they fall onto another of the same enemy (a Blooper on top of a Blooper, a Goomba on a Goomba, etc.), they both disappear. If not they stick around. At the bottom of the screen are four platters. You can swamp the places of adjacent platters and thus can move stacks around.

Every once in a while half of a Yoshi egg will fall. If a top half falls onto a bottom half Yoshi appears. That’s cute enough, but if the two halves sandwich enemies of any combination, the whole stack will disappear and you’ll get big points.Yoshi 201207261330147

That’s it. Simple to understand and fun right from the get go. The small screen means that almost immediately you have to make tough choices about what enemies you can cover up. And if you’re like me that means you’ll be shuttling around one huge stack waiting for the right enemy to come along and take some of the pressure off.

Time played: 15 minutes.
How was it?: Fun. Much more so than I expected from reading the preview.
Will you play it again?: Yeah, I’d like to give it another go.

Yo! Noid

205432-yo__noid_largeThe Noid was Domino Pizza’s mascot for a while. He was a red imp that lived to smoosh the top of your pizza box into the pizza and to make sure the whole thing got to you cold. I always found the Noid commercials kinda funny, but then I’ve always had a soft spot for claymation, and I was six.

Yo! Noid gets held up a lot as one of the worst, if not the worst, licensed game published for the NES. I’m not going to pretend it’s a hidden classic and that the haters have got it all wrong. There are loads of things wrong with the game. But I’ve played worse. I’ve played worse on the NES, and I’ve played worse on modern systems. Again, it’s not a hidden gem, but I would argue that with two simple tweaks the game would be a hell of a lot more palatable.

1.) Get rid of one-hit kills.

Everything else about the game is acceptable. The graphics are okay, the sound is okay, the level design is uninspired but okay, and the control is, well, the control’s actually pretty good. But it’s those damn one-hit kills that stop the game dead in its tracks.

2.) Check points.

Those one-hit kills will send you all the way back to the beginning of the level. Not fun.

“But Josh,” you say, “that’s what you say about every game.” Yeah, I do. Because damn near every game on the NES needed someone to take one last critical look at it and go, “But is it fun? Would it be more fun if we added a health meter?” Let me put it another way: would Mega Man have done as well if it had no health bar?

“Oh come on. Mega Man was designed around the idea of a health bar!”Yo! Noid 201207261317440

The thing is, so many other games were, too, they just didn’t know it! They were in the quarter-muncher mode. And yes, some genres, particularly shooters, are more fun with one-hit kills, but most aren’t.


Yo! Noid. Give it a try. It’s tough but not as bad as they say.

Time played: Hours. (I rented this game a lot as a kid for some reason.)
How was it?: Better than I remembered, but not without its flaws.
Will you play it again?: Yes.