New NES Games

Just the other day I was lamenting to my old pal The Admiral regarding my apparent inability to keep up with this blog. He patted me on the shoulder in a manner at once condescending and sympathetic and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll catch up – it’s not like they’re making any new games for the NES.” While I appreciate the sentiment, and I certainly don’t think that it’s an altogether unfair statement, what about…

Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril

Publisher: Sivak Games
Year: 2010
Genre: Platform Adventure ( aka Metroidvanian)
Some background is in order. First and foremost, there hasn’t been an official Nintendo game released since 1995, some five years after the NES’s successor, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, was released. In that sense, The Admiral was right – they’re just not making new Nintendo Games. They aren’t. As in “The Nintendo Corporation” is not.

New game, classic lackluster start screen.
New game, classic lackluster start screen.
As I’d like to think my humble blog illustrates, the Nintendo still has many, many loyal fans who trade and horde the little plastic cartridges, not as mere collector’s items, but with intent to PLAY them, on original hardware when possible. While the advent of emulators has created an robust homebrew community, playing these games on an NES requires specialized (expensive) hardware. As such, there is still a market, however limited,  fragile and neurotic, for actual Nintendo games for play on an actual Nintendo.

Enter Battle Kid, Fortress of Peril ($30 here).

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Delicious fruit sometimes falls up. Why? Fuck you, that's why!
Delicious fruit sometimes falls up. Why?
Fuck you, that’s why!
So some three years passed, and a considerable portion of those who remembered classic video games on the internet played IWBTG and got the opportunity to die hundred – or even thousands – of times, being killed by spikes, Dracula, Mike Tyson, delicious fruit and even the moon, and they loved* every frustrating minute of it!Ok, so back in the earlier days of the interwebs, back when things like Flash Games were popular weren’t big business, there was 人生オワタの大冒険this game, and it was hard. And this game inspired I Wanna Be the Guy: The Movie: The Game, and holy crap it was hard! But it was also a tribute to the Nintendo, with all sorts of classic Nintendo characters from both the 8- and 16- bit eras appearing, and for many of us, it appealed to that part of us that remembered when games weren’t just hard – hard was a game.

*Or at least, I loved every minute of it. Your mileage may vary. You might play two minutes of I Wanna Be the Guy before going into an unstoppable frenzy and killing all your friends, loved ones, poker buddies (which are neither), neighbors (which are none of the above) and pets (which was all of the above).

And not just me – the guys at Sivak Games, which probably did things other than make this game at some point, likewise played IWBTG and thought, “Oh man, that was awesome! I bet we could do this on the Nintendo!” So they did.

It was often nicknamed the 'Title Drop'
It was often nicknamed the ‘Title Drop’

The plot of Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril revolves around a mysterious enemy creating a superpowered battle mech while holed up on the mysterious and dangerous Fortress of Peril. Timmy, your protagonist, has to stop them and save the galaxy. Yeah, sounds like a Nintendo plot to;dr – IWBTG inspired BK:FoP, which is the game I’m actually reviewing.

To call Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril “hard” feels a bit of an understatement. “Hard” is an apt description, in the same way that “bald” is an apt description for Patrick Stewart – it’s entirely true, but it’s really not doing the situation justice. Just as Patrick Stewart is a TRIUMPH of baldness, this game is a lovingly crafted tribute to hard, meant in every way to confound, torment and infuriate the player in the most wonderfully nostalgic ways!

I fought a giant flower and died less than a second later.
I fought a giant flower
and died less than a second later.

Battle Kid is a bit more forgiving than IWBTG as far as rooms are concerned. In most cases, if you just stand at the edge of the room and observe you can piece together how to get through the room. Taking cautions jabs at enemies before rushing headlong to battle them will, more often than not, reveal their M.O. sufficiently that you’ll be able to fight them. It is possible, albeit unlikely, to beat most of the bosses on the first try, as learning their patterns and behaviors is something that can be done without learning from your past mistakes.When you start the game, you have a zappy gun and you can jump about three times your height. That’s all. Also, you only have one hit point. You get hit? You die. “Get hit by what,” you ask? Everything. Everything is trying to kill you.

I tried to outrun fireballs and died less than a second later.
I tried to outrun fireballs
and died less than a second later.

It wouldn’t be fair to review this game without actually addressing qualities such as the graphics (which are superb for the Nintendo), sound effects (exactly what you expect when you fire up a Nintendo game),  the music (which is infectious without being annoying), and the controls (which are responsive, intuitive and simple).The rooms, bosses and enemies are, in many cases, homages to classic Nintendo elements, albeit, these references are less direct that in IWBTG. Some of the enemies have patterns and behaviors straight out of Mario or Metroid games, while a number of the platforming elements are directly ported from Mega Man or Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. I suspect that, if I had not played so many Nintendo games before, I might well not enjoy this game as much as I have, and although these elements are hidden, it has often brought a smile to my face to see them in the game.

That wall appeared because I hesitated and died less than a second later.
That wall appeared because I hesitated
and died less than a second later.

John’s Rating: 4.5 our of 5.0. I’m not sure how exactly the game could be improved and stay true to its purpose. It is MEANT to be a colossally difficult frustratingly unforgiving game – that’s the point. While I won’t pretend that this quality necessarily adds to the fun of the game, I will say that it certainly makes actually winning a great achievement in and of itself. Every boss fight you complete makes you feel like some sort of video game god, crushing the evil computer beneath your heel despite its twisted efforts to stack the odds increasingly against you. This game is an opportunity to raise your joypad in triumph and cry out “Victory is MINE!”

I think I might just keep at this until I complete it – I have, after all, played all the way through less enjoyable games.

I beat this boss on the second try. I'll be proud of that 'til the day I die.
I beat this boss on the second try.
I’ll be proud of that ’til the day I die.

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