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4/21/2020

Top 101 NES Games, #90-81

90. 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.

89. Kickle Cubicle (Irem, 1990)

Another arcade port, though this time it's an action-puzzler somewhat similar in format to the Adventures of Lolo series.  As the titular Kickle Cubicle, you freeze enemies into ice blocks and then push them to defeat other enemies, pick up bonus items for points (getting double if you push an ice block over them) and land them in the water to freeze it, creating new pathways.  It sounds simple enough at first, but it quickly becomes extremely challenging, having you navigate all manner of hazards and master mechanics like the spinning hammers and spring blocks to get ice blocks where they need to go.  Each world is also capped off with a boss fight, which can prove pretty challenging in itself.  Definitely one of the more overlooked NES action-puzzlers, but it's certainly worth a try in itself.

88. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Konami, 1987)

A game which may be the focus of a lot of mockery and ridicule these days for having very loose ties to the source material and some occasionally baffling design, but one must also remember that this was the first video game based on a popular property, and weird or not, your game doesn't sell over four million copies without doing something right.  TMNT was certainly ambitious for its time, combining side-scrolling action segments with top-down, open-world exploration broken up into several stages, and the variety of enemies, sub-weapons and creative stage designs make it well worth a look.  That, plus Konami's consistently high standards for visuals and music, quickly made it into a hit in 1987.  People nowadays mostly talk about the arcade beat-em-ups, but being one of the first games I owned and played quite a lot of (but never actually finished as a kid), this one will always hold a special place in my memories.  And an occasional revisit on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

87. Legacy of the Wizard (Nihon Falcom, 1989)

Falcom made a number of attempts to gain a foothold in the west with their action-oriented fantasy RPGs, but not too many of them made it big with audiences in the days of 8 and 16-bit gaming.  Legacy of the Wizard was arguably their most successful attempt, meshing elements of Zelda with those of Metroid to create an open-ended experience with just as heavy an emphasis on puzzle-solving as action.  Playing as five members of a family, each with their own differing abilities and stats (jumping higher, having greater range, doing more damage with their weapon, and so forth), you set forth to explore a dungeon, find four magic crowns and slay the dragon in the center of the maze.  Acquiring new tools throughout quickly becomes essential to clear some obstacles, and only by utilizing each character's unique talents can you reach every area and find everything you need, including the sword required to slay the dragon.  The game is rather difficult for a number of reasons and the mechanics can be clunky at times (particularly the block-pushing puzzles), but some charming visuals and a kickass soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro and Mieko Ishikawa make it a captivating journey even in spite of that.

86. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Sunsoft, 1990)


Based on the film of the same name, Gremlins 2: The New Batch was handled by Sunsoft, a company that had impeccably high standards in everything they did, even if it was a licensed tie-in.  Gremlins 2 is certainly no exception, basing its levels, enemies and bosses on the film with surprising faithfulness, large sprites and immaculate graphical detail that makes all of them instantly recognizable.  The music is equally good, lending much of the film's frantic and chaotic tone to the game, and the controls, while they take a bit to get used to, are finely polished, letting you platform, evade enemies and throw attacks with ease.  It's not an especially long game and having level passwords and unlimited continues definitely doesn't make it one of the NES's most challenging games, but I can't complain when the end result is so fun.

85. Wai Wai World 2: SOS!! Parsley Jo (Konami, 1991 in Japan)

Konami was definitely one of the most prevalent and successful names in 8-bit gaming (just see all the other games on this list they've produced), and it got to the point where they weren't just cashing in on licensed properties, but they were even making fun of their own IPs.  Wai Wai World was just that - a mashup of several Konami franchises all in one cartridge, revisiting levels, characters and mechanics of all of them.  Wai Wai World 2 is more in that vein; you go through scrolling shooter stages, platforming stages and even a racing level.  Throughout it all you can collect powerups to transform into a number of Konami heroes - from Simon Belmont to Upa to Goemon to Bill Rizer of Contra fame, each with a different set of abilities to utilize.  It may not be an especially deep experience, but it's a fun and charming action game, and that's what the NES platform (and Konami) really did best.

84. Tiny Toon Adventures (Konami, 1991)

Based on the cartoon series from the '90s, Konami brought their usual brand of quality to another license and did it justice in every way possible.  Built on the example of the Mario series, Tiny Toon Adventures features much the same type of gameplay - platforming across colorful stages with a lot of the iconic characters from the show present.  You primarily play as Buster, but you can also switch to Plucky to fly for short distances, Furrball to climb up walls or Dizzy to spin and take out enemies, adding some variety to the gameplay and ways to overcome various obstacles.  Does it truly excel and become a classic of the genre?  Not really.  But it's polished, playable and fun every step of the way, so among licensed games, it's a standout regardless.


83. Journey to Silius (Sunsoft, 1990)

Journey to Silius is another highly-regarded title by Sunsoft, and it isn't hard to see why just from a screenshot - the game looked absolutely phenomenal for 1990.  Large, stylish sprites, detailed backgrounds, polished mechanics and high quality music showed up too, all of which helped cement Sunsoft as one of the NES's premiere developers.  A slightly less savory element to their games, though, was the punishing difficulty, and Journey to Silius is definitely no different there.  Enemies require some very well-honed tactics to get past, ammo for your special weapons is rare to come by, health even moreso, and dying at any point (even at the stage boss) forces you to redo the entire gauntlet from the beginning.  Bosses are no slouches either, often requiring extremely precise pattern-dodging and firing to get through intact.  It's an impressive and very polished game, but it certainly feels like punishment at times too.

82. Joy Mech Fight (Nintendo, 1993 in Japan)

Street Fighter II, while not the first fighting game ever made, is definitely the one that kicked the genre into high gear, and it seemed like everybody wanted to make their own version to cash in; from big companies to eastern Asian pirate groups, everyone wanted a slice of that pie.  Nintendo took their own crack at it on the NES; not exactly a practical system for it owing to strict memory and sprite limitations.  They found a way, though - by giving all the characters disconnected limbs, they could keep the gameplay fast and the animation smooth.  It has a fairly long single-player campaign where you face off with progressively tougher waves of robots and make your way to the big boss at the end, but of course it also had a competitive two-player mode with eight playable robots with their own distinct special moves.

81. Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-Kun (Konami, 1990 in Japan)

Konami spoofs themselves again with a game where you play as a kid version of Dracula out to defeat a challenger to his throne; namely, the demon Galamoth.  Rather than the dark gothic feel of the series, though, this game is bright, colorful and silly, with upbeat takes on Castlevania tracks and some creative twists on familiar enemies and locations from the series.  Dracula himself retains several of his distinct abilities, having an upgradable fireball attack and the ability to transform into a bat to maneuver through levels, and gains several more as well, like the ability to walk on ceilings or freeze enemies in ice.  Between each stage you also get a variety of minigames to earn extra lives and power-ups.  Just a fun, light-hearted spoof of its parent franchise that pays homage to everything great about it.