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4/21/2020

Top 101 NES Games, #70-61

70. Guerilla War (SNK, 1987)

Named "Guevara" in Japan and appropriately starring Che Guevara and Fidel Castro as they waged a two-man battle to liberate Cuba, SNK (quite wisely) decided to remove all real-life references when they brought the game to America in both arcade and NES form.  The arcade version of the game featured a rotary joystick that allowed the player to move in one direction and fire in another at the same time, something they attempted to recreate in the first two Ikari Warriors games on NES with pretty terrible results.  Thankfully, the port of Guerilla War abandons this idea and just has four-directional movement and firing, as well as considerably quicker gameplay speed.  It's great, fast-paced fun, especially with two players blowing up everything in their path.

69. Crisis Force (Konami, 1991 in Japan)


The Konami shmup legacy continues, and Crisis Force is arguably one of the best they've ever done.  It's a unique one too in terms of design, with a technological ancient Egyptian theme and some huge, detailed sprites every step of the way.  Your ship could also transform into three different configurations - one that fires multiple guns forwawrd, one that fires forward and backward and one that fires in three directions simultaneously, allowing you to adapt to your challanges, and one could even collect parts that would combine both players' ships into one large and very powerful one for a short period.  Really fun stuff, though it does tend to get laggy when the action gets intense (especially in two-player mode).  Unfortunately, being released so late in the system's life also ensured that not too many people played it even in Japan, making it a rare and spendy title nowadays.

68. GI Joe: The Atlantis Factor (KID, 1992)


The second game based on the GI Joe license, this time published by Capcom.  Appropriately, the game also changes format, going from a mostly-linear action title to one with a free-roaming stage selection similar to Bionic Commando - visiting different areas allows you to rescue Joes (both as playable characters and assisting you with extra ammo or other benefits), collect new weapons and find caches of powerups on your way to the end.  As in the previous game, each Joe has different stats and can collect upgrades, though this time you can also upgrade your melee attack - from basic punches to flying kicks to just straight damage boosts.  It's not the most iconic NES action title there is, but it's a solid one that's worth a play if you can find a copy.

67. Mega Man (Capcom, 1987)

Mega Man is probably better remembered today for its infamously terrible box art than for the game itself, but it shouldn't be; it kicked off a fantastic series of action-platformers and was a fine title in its own right.  It laid the groundwork for the series, featuring a protagonist who could defeat bosses and then take their weapons for himself, not only making later levels easier to deal with, but making him better prepared to take out other bosses who were weak against that particular weapon.  Bombs, fireballs, whirling scissors, lightning, an ice beam that could freeze enemies in place and, perhaps coolest of all, the ability to pick up and throw blocks bigger than himself to clobber foes.  It wasn't the most refined game ever - some bosses were monstrously difficult and it lacked several later series refinements like a password system or post-hit immunity protecting from spikes - but it was a great game anyway.

66. Battle of Olympus (Infinity, 1989)

Zelda II is far from the most popular Zelda game today, but it was an influential game in its time, spawning a number of games that took heavy inspiration from its action-RPG format.  Some of these became popular in their own right (like Wonder Boy) and others not so much (like Rambo).  Battle of Olympus is definitely one of the better attempts to replicate its stylel, though.  As in Zelda II, you'll explore dungeons and towns, acquire items that harm enemies and open new areas, and appeal to the gods to earn new weapons and armor to aid you in battle.  Some creative levels, enemies and puzzles round out the experience, making for a well-crafted, solid-playing action adventure that's largely overlooked these days.  Thankfully it is still relatively cheap on the secondhand market, so you can check it out without breaking your bank.

65. Cyber Stadium Series: Base Wars (Konami, 1991)

The NES had perhaps more baseball games than any other genre in its library, and while most of them were decent for the era, the overwhelming majority have not stood the test of time well, lapsing into obscurity not long after their release as sports games tend to do.  Base Wars, however, remains a standout title for putting some clever spins on the formula.  Rather than human players, you form a team of robots (with four varieties - legs, wheels, treads or hovering) and rather than simply being forced out at base, one can engage in hand-to-hand combat to make it there safely; the closer you get to the base, the more health you'll have to spare in the ensuing duel.  It's a bit basic and button-mashy, but the concept is hilarious, and it is also possible to win by playing dirty - beating up the opposing team enough and causing the destruction of three of their players will force them to forfeit the game.  Season mode also adds some clever twists by allowing the player to upgrade their team's weapons and parts to make them better equipped for games.  Pretty fun stuff, and the baseball mechanics themselves are solid too, of course.  It's just a pity the Cyber Stadium Series never produced another game.

64. Zoda's Revenge: Startropics II (Nintendo, 1994)

One of the very last games officially released for the NES, and it was quite a good one. A followup to Startropics - a game curiously programmed by a Japanese development team but only ever released in the west - Startropics 2 featured tighter controls, crisper graphics and a new plot involving Mike travelling through time searching for the seven magical Tetrads. Oh yes, Nintendo had the Tetris license at the time and they wouldn't let you forget it.

Another welcome change was the general softening of the difficulty curve - while still very challenging, cheap shots that took off a third of your health bar were now a thing of the past, and making contact with the bosses wasn't an instant death sentence - you simply lost a large chunk of your health. Just a touch more of the problem-solving aspect and solid narrative of the original and this may very well have surpassed it!

63. Lagrange Point (Konami, 1991 in Japan)


Konami has never really been a name associated in large part with RPGs, but that hasn't stopped them from a few attempts at carving out their own niche in the genre.  Lagrange point was certainly a memorable attempt too, going for a creative science fiction setting where most others on the platform opted for a fantasy one.  The presentation here is fantastic, with some detailed visuals, bizarre monster designs and clean-cut, high-tech environments to explore.  But probably the most remembered thing about it is the soundtrack; similar to Castlevania III, the game utilized an extra sound chip, the Virtual ROM Controller VII, to create some of the most beautiful-sounding music and effects the platform had ever known.  Even if RPGs aren't your thing, the soundtrack alone is well worth tracking down; trust me, you're in for a treat.

62. Parodius Da! (Konami, 1990)


Another home port of a Konami shoot-em-up, the title tells you exactly what this one is - a Parody of Gradius.  So, in addition to the iconic Vic Viper, you can now play as a flying pink octopus, the ship from Twinbee, and Penta from his own series, fly through all sorts of bright, colorful amusement park-esque worlds, and do battle with enemies like a stilt-walker, a cat-headed pirate ship and a giant blowfish.  It's extremely silly, but retains the series' tight design and high degree of challenge - you'd best be on point with your movements and allocating power-ups once you collect them, or you'll quickly become overwhelmed.  This isn't the best version of Parodius out there, but it is the only one that saw release on the Famicom and hey, it's still a really fun game.

61. Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers (Capcom, 1990)

One of many Disney-licensed platformers on the NES by Capcom, and one I rented many times as a kid.  Capcom's strong level design shines through here, delivering some creative stages like a kitchen, a toy factory and treetops with attacking flying squirrels.  Some solid music and visuals also complete the package, as does a two-player simultaneous play option that makes for a fun romp.  The game is ultimately fairly short and not especially difficult to complete, but I still pop it in and play it to this day because it's just a fun experience overall.