Any gamer who remembers the glory days of the NES also remembers how tough-as-nails many of the games could be. Many an NES fan has screamed harsh phrases at the TV that would even make Andrew Dice Clay blush. In this week’s column of sunshine, we’re going to examine of a few of the games that made me go thermonuclear with rage. I know I’m not alone in my beliefs…
Castlevania. Even though this game spawned the best horror series ever made, Castlevania was insanely hard at times, and with no password or save system, it left many gamers frothing at the mouth. Cheap hits were everywhere…you had to time your whip attack just right, or some stupid zombie would eat you. An amusing sidenote is that a leading cause of death in this game is improper jumps. That applies in many games, but unlike the norm, Castlevania‘s Simon Belmont actually obeyed the laws of physics: he couldn’t change direction in midair. So if you jumped too far to the left, you’re done; unlike Mario or Mega Man, your ass is falling down that pit. Getting hit in midair was the worst; you’d be knocked back slightly, completely throwing off your jump, and the enemies seemed to time it just right so that you’d be over some spikes or other grisly death device when they hit you. Especially those f*cking Medusa heads, easily the most annoying enemies in the entire Castlevania franchise.
Fester’s Quest. You die, you lose. Game over. Now, that’s been standard fare with many arcade games since day one; with Fester’s Quest, however, you don’t get the option to pump in more quarters. No passwords. No saving. No continues. No extra lives. You get a few bars of life, and once those are gone, you have to start the entire game all over again. Imagine one’s reaction if that happened while fighting the final boss! Boss fights were naturally tough, but most player damage came from frog-aliens spitting things at you from offscreen. I don’t know anyone who’s beaten that game without cheating somehow. Even with the handy NES Advantage joystick, Fester’s Quest pissed me off. I was about ready to jam Uncle Fester’s musket up his ass and make Lurch pry it out with vise grips.
Ninja Gaiden. Almost every single game in the Ninja Gaiden franchise (including the latest incarnation on the Xbox) has been a kick to the sack. Only our aspiration to becomes ninjas ourselves keeps us playing. That, and Tecmo really knows how to craft a kickass ninja story. Anyways, Ryu Hyabusa runs through levels slashing things to death. Seems simple enough, but some enemy attacks hit you before you have the chance to react. Worse yet, you can be hit multiple times before you realize what’s happening, and health-recovery items are rather hard to come by. Just in case you wanted more, the game features some particularly nasty boss battles…especially that f*cker Jaquio. Die on him, and you get to run through his entire annoying level again. You’d think a ninja with Ryu’s skill wouldn’t be fazed by having little knives thrown at him anyway.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan). Known as The Lost Levels in the US, this sequel was deemed “too difficult” to bring over to the NES originally, so we got a reworked version of Doki Doki Panic for our SMB2 instead. Seem like an insult? It’s really not. The original Japanese SMB2 is one of the most insanely difficult games I’ve ever played. Even World 1 is pain in the ass! Less powerups, more enemies, nasty gaps of death, Escher-esque level design, and the addition of the ever-annoying poison mushrooms made this game a winner in the “Most Likely to Cause an Aneurysm” award. To complete that game, you need time, patience, and drugs. If they had released the Japanese version stateside back in the NES days, people would’ve stormed Nintendo headquarters like a pack of ravenous wolves.
You may have noticed that I left out games that just plain sucked, and stuck with good games that were just very difficult. The fact that said games were good is why we kept playing them, after all. If was making a list of sucky NES games, we’d be here all f*cking day. Need I mention the evil that was Amagon?
Now, it’s your turn. What NES games drove YOU up the f*cking wall? Email me a blurb or two on some of them, and I’ll likely write up a “mailbag” type column next week so you can share your anger with the world! Just click the “Send Feedback” link below, and we’ll be on our way.