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5/09/2015

Top 100 Worst NES Games, #20-11

20. The Legend of Prince Valiant (Ocean, 1992) 

Based on a cartoon series which was in turn based on a long-running newspaper strip starting all the way back in the 1930s.  But being a licensed property in the late days of the NES, you can bet that a) Ocean would pick it up and b) it would be terrible.  And in this case, you would be correct on both counts.  The game is essentially a side-scrolling shooter of the worst caliber, with you walking right and enduring an endless onslaught of enemies whom you must defeat with your (extremely slow) sling whilst avoiding traps.  Winning our seems to just be a matter of pure luck as you're constantly swarmed on all sides and the platforming is truly awful, feeling both loose in the controls department and requiring extremely precise timing on small platforms to boot.  But I guess there is a bit of a silver lining in that it looks less hideous than the usual offerings from Ocean...

19. Swamp Thing (Imagineering, 1992)

When you go from licensing hot properties like the Simpsons and Ghostbusters to a low-tier comic book character like Swamp Thing, you know your game company is in trouble.  Moreso when the already clumsy gameplay of the Simpsons titles somehow gets even more tedious, and any of the clever ideas that made them redeemable get tossed out in favor of stiff platforming and repetitive combat with the same small handful of monsters.  Slow, plodding, overly difficult and backed by annoying recycled sound effects and uninspired music, Swamp Thing is another bad platformer on a platform that brought us some of the finest examples of the genre.  Imagineering's games were generally bad, but I dare say this is the worst thing they ever released.

18. Dirty Harry (Gray Matter, 1990)

Mindscape brings us another licensed turkey, once again taking a book/film franchise with some solid video game potential and botching it on every front.  Sluggish controls, cheap enemies, lousy hit detection and levels that seem to be intentionally designed to be as obnoxious as possible.  The first stage alone is a gargantuan maze of buildings and sewers that you can potentially get lost in for hours, dying to death traps and gun-toting goons that assault you every five steps.  That's bad enough, but then you throw in confusing puzzles (you have to wear a white suit to get past that goon, otherwise he'll just punch you across the room!), a soundtrack comprised of ear-grating noise and the fact that you can only input a password to save at the end of the level (meaning losing your last life means losing all of your progress on stages that can take well over an hour to complete) and you have a very miserable experience.  The only highlights are some decent digitized voices on the title screen and during the ending.

17. Athena (Micronics, 1987)

Micronics again?  More like Migraines, because that's what their games inevitably give to you with the sheer ineptitude of their design.  They threw out halfassed ports without a care throughout most of the 80s - Ikari Warriors, Ghosts n' Goblins, Ghostbusters, and now Athena.  Loosely based on an old shooter by SNK, the game is reworked as a sidescrolling adventure.  Badly, that is.  Stiff contols, a jump height that seems to be completely random, and harsh random note music combine to make Athena a thoroughly unpleasant bout of gaming to try and sit through.  But the most unforgivable sin of all is that, like a Week of Garfield, you have absolutely no post-hit invincibility, so any enemy can and will drain your health to nothing in under a second.  And considering you're constantly swarmed by the damn things, it's a miracle if you ever make it past the first stage.  Just stick to the original arcade game if you want to have a better time.

16. King Neptune's Adventure (Color Dreams, 1990)

I'm not going out of my way to pick on Color Dreams.  I'm really not.  But when you put out such large and consistently terrible waves of games that you make LJN look like Capcom in comparison, it doesn't really give me much of a choice.  King Neptune's Adventure is not only among their worst, but it's so bad that it's nearly unplayable.  In addition to garish visuals with backgrounds that constantly flash psychedelic colors (epileptics be warned) and harsh sound effects and random note music, you have two impotent attacks that your enemies seem to actively avoid, stages that seem to drag on forever and incredibly broken screen scrolling that requires you to be at the very edge of the viewable area, all but ensuring that you're going to run into every enemy you come across.  It all culminates in you getting killed long before ever accomplishing much of anything, which isn't the mark of anything resembling a quality game.

15. Color a Dinosaur (Farsight Technologies, 1993) 

Why would you even make a coloring book game on a system that can only support 8 on-screen colors at a time?  Not only that, the game doesn't even seem to ever use all eight colors at once, just giving you three or four to work with in various patterns to kinda sorta give the illusion of multiple colors.  Then you add in janky music on the menus and the cursor rigidly being locked to specific points on the screen to color in, and you really must question what the point of even making this game was when Mario Paint was released in the same year.  ...Oh, right, to cash in on that.  There's really not much else to even say about it, it's just shovelware in its purest form.  But when it's brought to us by the company that produced the Genesis version of Action 52, are you really surprised?


14. Metal Mech: Man and Machine (Sculptured Software, 1991) 

Sculptured Software (a company that brought us such gems as Day Dreamin' Davey and Captain Novolin) tries their best to horn in on the success of Blaster Master.  Unfortunately, this was their best even after three years of technological improvement.  A game with choppy controls and cheap enemies swarming you every three seconds, with your bullets being so small and rigidly locked into directions perpendicular to your mech's cockpit that they're guaranteed to never hit anything.  You'll also frequently have to leave your mech behind to accomplish objectives on foot, but frustratingly, it can still take damage even when you're not in it.  And it will, since enemies never stop swarming and attacking even when you're elsewhere.  It'll be a miracle if you can survive long enough to see past the first few screens of the game, let alone complete a stage.  Metal Mech is overall simply plodding, ugly and frustrating.  If you want this same concept but done well, then do yourself a favor and play the real deal - Blaster Master - instead.

13. Hokuto no Ken (Toei, 1986 in Japan) 

Everyone with a passing interest in anime and manga has at least heard of Fist of the North Star, the classic tale of a martial artist named Kenshiro wandering the post-apocalyptic landscape and making hooligans explode with superpowered martial arts.  Unfortunately, while Hokuto no Ken's manga and anime outings stand as staples of the action genre to this day, its video game adaptations remain some of the worst ever devised.  Probably the most well-known and infamous is the 1986 Famicom release, which features lousy visuals (looking like corrupted graphics you'd see on an NES with corroded connectors) and levels that seem to loop endlessly.  Which they do, unless you know to follow Lin via the extremely intuitive method of standing in doorways and pressing Up+A+B.  That's all fine and good, but after the first few levels she begins to lead you astray, making level navigation a matter of complete guesswork.  Pair that with constantly swarming enemies that never cut you a break and cheap bosses that can whittle your health bar away in no time flat, and you have a true disaster in the realm of gaming.  Not even being able to explode enemies with your fists (in a surprisingly gory display for an NES title) could make the experience tolerable.

12. Taboo: The Sixth Sense (Rare, 1989) 

What's more of a ripoff than those tarot reading 900 number hotlines?  How about paying $50 to get the same experience on your Nintendo Entertainment System?  Yeah, this is real.  And quite possibly the worst piece of software Rare has ever created, because there's not even a game here - you just punch in your name, birthdate and gender, and you get a tarot reading.  That's it; you've seen everything the game has to offer within two minutes of starting it up.  Well, unless you're really desperate to see some low-resolution 8-bit nudity that somehow slipped under the Nintendo censors' radar, to say nothing of exploiting the concepts of religious themes (another no-no for Nintendo and their "family friendly" image of the time).  Either way, though, this "game" is not worth your time, or anyone's for that matter.

11. Robodemons (Color Dreams, 1989) 

Yep, it's Color Dreams again, and yep, their games just seem to get worse and worse.  Robodemons is a blend of their usual broken platforming engine and quite possibly the worst standalone shmup ever made.  In the latter regard is the fact that you are such a massive target, but your weapon is a small, awkward to use boomerang that can only have one hsot onscreen at a time and takes several hits to bring down anything (especially the bosses, who are all but guaranteed to take you down before you can do enough damage to defeat them).  The platforming stages are no better either, with hordes of tiny enemies that always seem to appear just outside of your weapon's range and are all but guaranteed to hit you.  Garnish with the usual suspects of grating music and harsh buzzes for every sound effect, and you have another bomb from a company that consistently made nothing but.