8-bit Memory Lane

Blogging the NES' library one game at a time.

220px-Xexyz_CoverartThere’s so much stuff going on in Xexyz that I don’t know that I can list all of the influences. I mean…Mega Man, Zelda II, Super Mario Bros., I could go on.

You control a little robot thing that can stop off at lots of doors that have hidden power-ups or information or mini-bosses, and the power-ups let you break the game in all sorts of neat ways like walking on air or shooting your weapon at strange angles, and…

It’s a strange platformer with a lot of other ideas chucked in there. I…don’t fully understand it but I was left wanting more.Xexyz 201207261305544

Time played: 20 minutes.
How was it?: Fascinating.
Will you play it again?: Oh yes.

_-Xevious-NES-_This is an extremely early shooter from Bandai, and I would only recommend fans of the genre play it. Even then it would mostly be a history lesson.

Here’s what it doesn’t have: power-ups, good graphics, or discrete levels as we think of them today.

But the sound is pleasing in a primitive way, as is the gameplay itself. It gets more hectic as the game progresses, but it’s actually pretty relaxing. Kind of a zen shooter. And though it doesn’t have discrete levels, it does have clearly marked areas (look for the forests—those are the borders).

Time played: 10 minutes.Xevious 201207261255516
How was it?: Okay but primitive.
Will you play it again?: I don’t think so.

xenophobe.cover.frontSlowly run around a space station shooting various generic looking aliens. Kill an arbitrary amount to move onto the next level. Very boring.

Time played: 5 minutes.
How was it?: *Yawn*
Will you play it again?: No.Xenophobe 201207261248030

WWF - Wrestlemania Steel Cage Challenge
steel cage coverSteps forward and steps back. Well, you can’t have everything.

What you can have is some great animation, lots of fantastic wrestlers (Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, and Jake Roberts among others), and a move system that makes sense and actually works when you press the button. You can also have a ton of modes: player versus COM, two player tag versus COM, or player versus player, plus matches of the regular and steel cage variety.

The lockup system deserves special mention, because it reminds me strongly of Fire Pro’s: move into another wrestler to start a lockup, and whoever has more stamina has “the advantage” and can perform a headbutt, a bodyslam, or an Irish Whip. The wrestler at a disadvantage hammers A as fast as he can in order to “overpower” the opponent (break the clinch). (Fire Pro’s is somewhat related, but is based on timing. Whoever hits the button just when the clinch starts has the advantage.)

What you can’t have are sprites that look recognizably like the wrestlers they’re supposed to be, or decent sound. The sound is awful, especially the digitized voices. It makes you long for the squawking of Pro Wrestling.WWF Steel Cage Challenge 201207252010446

I still don’t think it’s up to the fun and ease of use of Tecmo World Wrestling, but it is a fine wrasslin’ game (and, in fact, it’s a bit more technical than Tecmo), and a vast improvement over the other WWF NES games.

Time played: 20 minutes.
How was it?: Pretty good. Terrible sound, but great mechanics and animation sell it.
Will you play it again?: Probably.

WWF - Wrestlemania Challenge
wrestlemania challenge co verOverall Challenge is an improvement from vanilla Wrestlemania, but it’s still not the champ.

There are more wrestlers this time around—eight superstars plus a generic “You” character—more modes, and more moves. You can move outside of the ring.

But the moves are still based on the unwieldy scheme from the previous game and are even more difficult to pull off than last time. I thought it might be a Fire Pro situation, maybe it was timing based but no, it seems like it’s just poor programming.

So: better than the last game but still not the last word in NES wrestling.WWF Wrestlemania Challenge 201207251550515

Time played: 10 minutes.
How was it?: Not so good.
Will you play it again?: No.

WWF - Wrestlemania
wrestlemania coverAfter 700-odd games and countless times talking about wrestling we finally come to the big daddy of American pro wrestling: the WWF.* As the industry leader its games need to be the best, which means that I have only one question: is Wrestlemania better than Tecmo World Wrestling?

Nope. Not by a long shot.

What Wrestlemania has going for it: the ability to play as WWF Superstars, including three of the all-time greats: Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Andre the Giant (much love to Ted Dibiase, Bam Bam Bigelow, and the Honky Tonk Man, but c’mon). The likenesses are pretty good, and the wrestlers all have their signature moves. They even have their entrance songs as background music.

Unfortunately the rest of the game doesn’t engender the same level of excitement. There aren’t a whole lot of moves and anything that’s not a basic strike is difficult to perform. You can’t go outside the ring. There are only two play modes, one-off matches and a tournament.WWF Wrestlemania 201207251538404

This is a disappointing first effort for the WWF, and I’m sad to say I poured hours and hours into this game as a kid before I decided that playing wrestling games with my wrestling action figures was more true to the sport and more fun.

Time played: Hours.
How was it?: Not good.
Will you play it again?: Nope.

*Note: I played and wrote about these games in the order in which they were released, but decided to stick to posting them alphabetically. Thus "finally" getting to the WWF after already having talked about another WWF game.

WWF - King of the Ring
king of the ring coverThe first game to finally capture the fun and excitement of a real WWF bout is the last one for the system. It feels like the classic WWF arcade games which were essentially brawlers in a small space with lots of context-sensitive moves. The move list has been streamlined from previous games, which is an absolute blessing, and the sound got a much-needed overhaul. About the only thing that’s not an improvement are the graphics, which are larger and blockier than in previous games and the lack of wrestler-specific special moves.

I still don’t think it has surpassed Tecmo World Wrestling, but I’m willing to hear arguments to the contrary. Maybe with one more game in the series LJN finally could’ve cracked it. King of the Ring is easily the best WWF game on the NES, and comfortably the second best wrasslin’ game. Number two to such a powerhouse is nothing to shake a stick at.WWF King of the Ring 201207252028189

Time played: 15 minutes.
How was it?: Lots of fun.
Will you play it again?: Maybe, but its style makes me want to play the WWF arcade games.

Wurm: Journey to the Center of the Earth
wurm_journey_to_the_center_of_the_earth.cover.frontLike Old Greg Wurm has all things that are good. It’s a shooter, it’s an action game, it’s an RPG, it’s all of those things at once!

Well, sort of. The RPG bit is heavy on the role-playing, light on the normal “making numbers go up” part. Which is fine. Some dialogue now and again from our heroine is great. Rather than just shooting creatures mindlessly until the levels over it makes me feel like I’m part of the story.

There’s another downside. Ever hear the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none?” That’s Wurm. None of the discreet parts would wins awards if it existed alone, but luckily the game as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The game follows a pattern that is strangely enough delineated in the instruction manual, and it goes, roughly: horizontal/vertical shooter, cockpit shooting mode, side scrolling action. The first and last modes are what you’d expect, and cockpit shooting mode is exactly what it sounds like—you take a first person perspective from the cockpit of your tank—but in between “rounds” of shooting bad guys you talk to your team in order for advice and support. Talk to them in the right order to raise the “Possibility Factor”. When Possibility reaches 100% you and the team have figured out how to defeat the monster; before that you’ll keep cycling around with it, slowly raising Possibility by shooting it. I love this mode because it captures the feel of a particular brand of Japanese pop culture: the crew of a mecha, all jabbering away on how to defeat the latest baddy.Wurm - Journey To The Center Of The Earth 201207261234047

Time played: 30 minutes.
How was it?: Taken as a whole: awesome.
Will you play it again?: Absolutely.

Wrecking Crew
250px-Wrecking_Crew_coverThis is a new one for me. Wrecking Crew is one of the pre-Super Mario Bros. Mario games, but I’ve never played it before. It’s a shame, too, ‘cause this a fun little puzzle game.

The goal is to guide Mario all over the stage smashing walls with a hammer. Once all the walls pointed out at the beginning (the walls always look the same, but just to be safe the ones that need to be smashed flash before the level starts), are gone you move on to the next level.

At first it seems like a Donkey Kong style game, and that influence is there, sure, but it’s more of a puzzle game. Closer to Mario vs. Donkey Kong, really, because a lot of stages have a specific order in which you have to move and destroy walls, and you’ll get stuck if you mess up. (Stages like that, where you get stuck, and few and far between, but they do exist so watch out.)Wrecking Crew 201207251526031

I like everything about this game. The graphics are fine, considering the time, but the animation is stellar, as Mario waddles around and pipe wrench-like enemies chase after you. Even Mario topping a ladder gets a great little animation as he hefts himself up. The music’s actually pretty good, with some Super Mario-esque tunes thrown in for good measure.

Wrecking Crew is absolutely worth playing in its current form, but I’d love to see Nintendo come out with an update.

Time played: 30 minutes.
How was it?: A lot of fun.
Will you play it again?: Absolutely.

Wrath of the Black Manta
wrath coverThe anti-Ninja Gaiden, Black Manta is a ninja game that is slow, almost deliberative in how it proceeds. Enemies are nice and orderly lined up for the slaughter, never getting into a position where they could be real trouble for you. You’ve got a bunch of cool ninja powers always at your fingertips and they never run out. If you poke around a little you’ll find messages from the game itself telling you where secret passages are hidden. No running to Nintendo Power or the Internet needed.

Yes, it’s very simple. Calling it “Baby’s First Ninja Game” would be needlessly reductive, but it’s not far off. And frankly I find that refreshing on this system. It’s not a game that demands to be mastered, but rather invites the player in with feelings of power and productivity. That’s not to say that there’s no challenge, because there is, particularly with the bosses, but it doesn’t require savant grade skills to get through a level.Wrath Of The Black Manta 201207251511172

The rest of the package is just as attractive. The graphics are nice, the control is good, and the music’s pretty good, too.

Time played: 20 minutes.
How was it?: Very good.
Will you play it again?: Yeah. And I want to pay attention to the story this time.


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