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4/21/2020

Top 101 NES Games, #60-51

60. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game/III: The Manhattan Project (Konami, 1990/1992)

The first TMNT game was an action title with some open-world elements, while the second was a port of Konami's popular arcade game, losing some of its graphical fidelity but actually improving upon its gameplay (much sharper hit detection!) and adding in two new levels to set it apart.  The third game in the franchise was an original game in the same format as 2, though adding some new twists.  Each turtle now had their own special move that could deal out the damage, and would cost 1 life point every time they used it (unless they were already at one point, in which case they could spam it as much as they liked).  Numerous new bosses appear as well; not just from the cartoon series, but also from the movies and comic books.  It does get to be a bit long and is fairly one-note gameplay-wise, but both games are solid and well worth playing.

59. Just Breed (Random House, 1992 in Japan)

A game that famously spent over three years in development at a time when such things were rare, and as a result saw a relatively late release on the Famicom in 1992, Just Breed was also a cut above most RPGs on the platform.  A tactical turn-based experience to rival games like Fire Emblem or Shining Force, Just Breed carved out its own niche by having detailed graphics and fantastic music thanks to using the MMC5 chip, as well as gameplay that was downright impressive in scale, based around sprawling battles with dozens of units duking it out on both sides.  Each of the main characters is accompanied by up to five generic units, and each squad levels up as a group, so it definitely feels like you're commanding large army-versus-army battles and not just a small ragtag band of fighters.  It has a few quirks - the main characters take their move before any of their underlings can, and all characters in a unit do have to stay relatively close together,  so traversing maps can be somewhat slow, especially if a couple units break away to deal with a lingering foe.  Protecting your main character is also important - if they fall, all of their underlings will retreat from the field, so you have to strike a careful balance between forging ahead with your squad leaders and not leaving them too vulnerable to the inevitable counterattack.  But while not flawless, Just Breed is an ambitious, surprisingly big (6 megabits!) and quite fun strategy RPG that pushes the Famicom hardware to its limits, and is well worth playing for any genre fan.

58. Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou (Konami, 1988 in Japan)


Another great homeport of a kickass Konami arcade game never got released elsewhere.  But at least I have an answer for why it didn't in this case; on the Famicom, this game utilized a custom memory mapper that the NES lacked, and it would be a lot of effort to covert it over to NES hardware, so they just didn't bother.  Those who got to play it were in for a treat, though, as it was another great game in the series.  Now employing vertical scrolling as well as horizontal, as well as plenty of crazy stages where you're travelling between suns battling giant dragons and other crazy eye-popping sights.  As per series norm, it is also an exceptionally tough experience, requiring much practice and impeccable power-up usage if you want any hope of seeing your way to the end.


57. Super C (Konami, 1990)

The somewhat strangely named sequel to Contra (so named because Konami didn't want to associate themselves with the Iran-Contra scandal of the time), Super C wasn't quite as memorable as the original game, but still a very worthwhile run-and-gun title in itself.  Several of the less-prestigious weapons of the original were powered up - the Flamethrower in particular now fires an exploding shot and can be charged to deal more damage, for example.  The over-the-shoulder view levels were also replaced with top-down shooting segments, and levels became more dynamic in general, with segments like an elevator and a falling ceiling that can severely hamper your movement.   Konami were masters of making home ports of arcade games that somehow surpassed the originals in quality, and Super C is another fine example of that.

56. Summer Carnival '92: Recca (Naxatsoft, 1992)


Recca is a game known for three things: Giving the Genesis's Blast Processing a run for its money with the fluidity in its gameplay and animations, being extremely rare (only seeing limited release as part of a Japanese competition) and its monstrous difficulty.   From beginning to end this game's action is utterly relentless, with constant swarms of enemy ships and bullets flooding the screen amongst a plethora of flashy visual effects and intense, pulse-pounding music, and it all blazes along at speeds the hardware doesn't even seem like it should be capable of at all!  If you want a game that will push your reflexes and shoot-em-up skills to their limits (and if you can find a copy), look no further than Recca, because it is truly one-of-a-kind.


55. Mega Man 6 (Capcom, 1993)

Considered one of the weaker entries on the platform by a lot of fans, Mega Man 6 certainly showed signs of being rushed; it came out late in the system's life and Nintendo, in the role of producing this title, was clearly banking on it being a send-off game; the level quality and challenge definitely suffered as a result.  However, it did also have some unique quirks to set it apart.  Instead of calling in Rush, you now morph with him into two forms - Rush Power (which can smash through walls and deal damage with short-ranged punches) and Rush Jet (serving as a jetpack that allows flight for short distances).  It also had some great music as per series norm, proving that if nothing else, Capcom was striving to make it memorable if not one of the best.  It's a ton of fun to play in spite of its faults, and hey, classic Mega Man at his weakest is still better than most game franchises at their best.

54. Willow (Capcom, 1989)


Another high-quality tie-in title from Capcom.  Based on the film of the same name and following its plot pretty closely for the most part, Willow's gameplay was clearly modeled on Legend of Zelda, though it also worked in a few elements of Zelda II.  As you defeat enemies you'll gain experience and level up, bolstering your stats, and you'd unlock numerous spells and new pieces of equipment along the way to aid you.  Many of these are used offensively (like the ability to throw acorns that paralyze enemies), while others have more supportive uses - healing Willow, blowing enemies offscreen so you don't have to fight them, or quickly returning to past towns, to name a few.  Sprites are large and detailed, and I like the fact that the wind blows whenever combat starts, making all the trees and grass on-screen shake.  Some well-composed music rounds out the package, making for a fun and entertaining title on the whole.

53. Dr. Mario (Nintendo, 1988)

While I'm not a huge player of competitive puzzle games, there's no denying that Dr. Mario has that good old addictive charm to it. There's a true sense of frantic challenge as you try to clear an entire screen of colored viruses, trying not to let your pills fall in the wrong place and create obstacles that will take a significant amount of time and effort to clear (and probably gum up your efforts even more as you do so). Hell, there was even a two-player competitive mode, which couldn't be said for Nintendo's version of Tetris. I also both praise and curse it for having one of the catchiest tunes in all of gaming; I first played this game over thirty years ago and I still have that Fever tune stuck in my head...


52. Blaster Master (Sunsoft, 1988)


Sunsoft was another big name to many NES gamers, creating quite a few high-quality games in their time (including more than a few licensed tie-ins of surprising quality).  Blaster Master is one that's fondly remembered by many; known as much for its solid gameplay and design as its silly translation.  The Japanese version was a tale about an alien invasion in a distant world while the US version was reworked to be about a kid searching for his pet frog, mutated into giant form by radiation.  Either way, though, the game is a solid one, having you control both the protagonist in top-down shooter sections and the tank in side-scrolling ones, defeating bosses and finding numerous upgrades in order to progress.  From jet thrusters to driving up walls to upgrading your tank's artillery, it's a game with quite a lot to experience.  The only downside was a lack of any kind of save or password feature, so it was a game you had to not only get good at, but beat in one long session!

51. Final Fantasy III (Square, 1990 in Japan)


The last of the Final Fantasy games released for the Famicom, and definitely the best one it had there.  After the relatively unpopular second entry tried to change up the gameplay and design (with not-so-great results), Final Fantasy III goes back to basics a bit, reintroducing the class system and overall aesthetic of the first while giving it a major upgrade in visual and sound fidelity.  The class sytem is much more in-depth now, though, including nineteen classes in total.  All the classics from the first return and many new ones are introduced that would become series mainstays, like the Ranger, Geomancer, Bard and Sage classes.  A much larger world than the first two games is on display too, as are plenty of dungeons and hidden secrets to find.  It's not regarded by too many people as one of the best in the franchise, but it's certainly the best you're going to find on the original Famicom.