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4/21/2020

Top 101 NES Games, #80-71

80. Deja Vu: A Nightmare Comes True! (ICOM, 1990)

Part of the so-called "ICOM Trilogy" for the NES, Deja Vu was a slightly more realistic take on the point-and-click adventure genre. As an amnesiac framed for murder, it falls to you to recover your memories, clear your name and uncover the real culprits behind the crime. As with the other two games in the series, some puzzle solutions are a bit obtuse and it's possible to get stuck in an unwinnable state if you're not careful, but the solid, atmospheric soundtrack and tense narrative make it an unforgettable experience regardless. It's just a pity that Deja Vu's sequel was never released on the NES; however, it did eventually get a Game Boy Color port in late 1999.



79. Lemmings (DMA Design/Sunsoft, 1992)

Lemmings was an enormously popular puzzle game back in the early '90s, spawning numerous sequels, spinoffs and ports on just about every platform you could think of.  Sunsoft did a great job on the NES port too, retaining the same gameplay as well as the high-quality animation and music that made it a hit on various computer platforms.  The goal of the game is a simple one - get a quota of lemmings safely to the goal - and to that end you assign a few of them tasks like blocking the others from walking into hazards, giving them umbrellas to safely drop long distances, digging through dirt or building staircases to clear a path.  Sounds simple enough, but it quickly becomes very challenging, with later levels requiring very careful planning and precision to complete.  Still, Lemmings is a classic puzzle game, and is definitely worth a look.

78. GI Joe: A Real American Hero (Taxan, 1991)

The first of the two NES GI Joe games, and it was a fine representation of the show, letting you pick a team of three characters as you completed various missions.  Mostly in the form of side-scrolling platforming stages and boss fights with the franchise's iconic villains, but throughout you'd also have to infiltrate bases and plant bombs, then defeat the boss and make your escape before they detonated, which was quite cool to see.  Each team member also had different abilities - Snake Eyes could jump the highest and had relatively long melee range with his sword, Duke and Gridiron are relatively well balanced, while Rock&Roll has overall low stats but the most powerful weapon in the game when fully powered up.  The final stage also lets you take control of General Hawk, who flies around with a jetpack, adding another layer of fun.  A solid, well-made game that for some reason never got much attention.

77. 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.

76. M.C. Kids (Virgin Games, 1992)


M.C. Kids is a game that's frequently overlooked, but I can't give people too much crap for that.  Between its late release and being an advergame for McDonalds, it's one that few people paid any mind to in the 90s and most who learned of it later dismiss immediately.  However, those who gave it a chance found a highly polished and fun platformer that takes several cues from the Super Mario Bros series.  One can pick up and throw blocks to defeat enemies or weigh themselves down to spring higher on springs, flip their own gravity and traverse stages upside-down, and of course find a huge plethora of secrets and bonuses in each level.  Even the visual style is similar, with some smoothly animated characters and detailed sprites.  Virgin would go on to make several highly-acclaimed games (most notably Aladdin on the Sega Genesis), but M.C. Kids never quite got its due.

75. Faxanadu (Hudson Soft, 1989)

A spinoff of Xanadu (the second game in Falcom's Dragon Slayer series, which itself never got a western release), Faxanadu is regarded as an overlooked classic these days.  It's definitely one of the more unique and bizarre fantasy games on the platform, with a downright bizarre setting, some creepy enemies and some surprisingly good gameplay.  Combining elements of platformers (complete with a number power-ups and hazardous items one must avoid) and RPG elements like spells,, experience points and armor upgrades, it has quite a bit to offer both action and RPG fans.  It does have some slightly awkward controls and tricky jumps that require nearly pixel-perfect precision.  Faxanadu was never a super popular game, but those who give it a chance have a good time in store.

74. Life Force (Konami, 1988)


Known as "Salamander" in Japan, Life Force is a spinoff of the Gradius franchise, featuring both side-scrolling and top-down scrolling gameplay and a similar power-up system.  It definitely plays up the horror influence too, taking place in the body of a giant alien and having appropriately creepy, fleshy environments and bosses to square off against.  The NES version, in addition to being heavily reworked from the arcade, was also notable at the time for featuring two-player simultaneous co-op, and surprisingly it shows little slowdown during it even when the action really heats up.  But of course, Konami pulls no punches with the difficulty either - if you don't memorize the ins-and-outs of every battle and plan your movements carefully, you're not going to be able to finish this one.

73. Downtown Special - Kunio Kun no Jidaigeki Dayo Zenin Shuugou! (Technos, 1991 in Japan)

A lot of people know about River City Ransom - it's one of the defining cult classics of the NES - and even about the franchise it's a part of, but for some reason not too many people talk about this one.  Translating to "Kunio-Kun's Historical Period Drama", it's essentially the same gameplay as RCR, but set in feudal Japan and having you search out a cure to your bunzo's illness.  Some other improvements show up too, like showing how much damage you're doing to opponents and an AI-controlled partner who accompanies you throughout if you're playing solo.  It's not quite as fun as the first owing to copious lag and slowdown (a problem with the NES verison of RCR as well, particularly in two-player mode), but it's a great game regardless.  Give it a play if you can find a copy.

72. Solar Jetman: Quest for the Golden Warpship (Zippo Games/Rare, 1990)


The sequel to Rare's "Lunar Jetman", and a much different game overall, as it's based much more heavily on exploration and physics simulation.  The player visits thirteen planets with differing gravity and hazards and seeks out various treasures and items.  Some upgrade the player's pods with new weapons or additional capabilities like shields and thrusters, while others simply provide money to spend at the shop in-between rounds.  The goal on each world is to fuel up your mothership and collect one of the pieces of the Golden Warpship; collecting them all will allow you to enter the final stage and defeat the boss at the end.  Some amazing graphical effects and music (provided by the legendary David Wise) round out the package, making it a game that plays as good as it looks.  The only thing holding it back from greatness was its extreme difficulty level.

71. Monster Party (Human Entertainment, 1989)


Monster Party probably isn't remembered by most as one of the best-playing games on the NES, but it is certainly one of the most memorable.  This is in no small part due to featuring some surprisingly gruesome imagery, including even some blood and gore, as well as some of the most creative and outlandish bosses seen in any NES game.  From a bubble-spitting pitcher plant to a transparent mummy to a cat that throws smaller cats to a giant bouncing onion ring, Monster Party has panache and weirdness to spare, as well as giving the player clever means to fight them; either transforming into a winged gargoyle-like creature to launch fireballs or utilizing a short-ranged baseball bat to deflect their own projectiles back at them.  One of those games that still stands out today just based on the merits of the imagination employed in its design.

Fun fact: An unreleased Japanese prototype of the game reveals that many of the bosses within are actually parodies of famous films, from Planet of the Apes to Alien to Gremlins to The Thing.  Unsurprisingly, most of these were changed in the US version because of copyright concerns.