“Genre-defining” is not a term that should be thrown about lightly. Any game that truly defines a genre must have elements that, to date, were unique and special. Elements that made the game groundbreaking – that really stuck with players and made them excited to be playing the game.
Metroid has since become one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, with speedrun competitions still raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. But its humble beginnings were in this NES title, jam packed with exploration, frustration and… something else-ation.
Publisher: Nintendo Year: 1987 Genre: Platform, Adventure, Top-Scroll
As a child, I spent many an hour perusing D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, reading again and again the legends of tragic heroes such as Theseus, Achilles and Icarus. The moral of every Greek myth has always been, “No matter how awesome you are, you only need to fuck up once to ruin it all.” Kid Icarus? Pretty much the same lesson.
You remember the Goonies, right? Beloved 1980’s cult flick involving pirate gold, Cyndi Lauper (along with some pro wrestlers) and truffle shuffles? Remember the sequel where the Fratellis kidnapped all of the Goonies except Mikey as well as a mermaid, and Mikey had to rescue them with the help of a colorful cast of characters such as an old man and woman, a fish man and an eskimo?
In Deadly Towers, you’re a knight or prince of some sort (it’s in the opening cinematic, I just forgot and refuse to waste my time reading it again) and everything is trying to kill you. Fortunately, you throw knives. Knives that can kill anything. Fire attacking you? Stab it until it dies! Blue orb? Stab it until it dies!
The game is, for the most part, a collection of poorly thought out or incompetently executed game mechanics. You have 100 hit points to start with, but it probably wouldn’t help you to have a million hit points. The game has mercy invincibility, for example, but it lasts for less than half a second and paralyzes and knocks you backwards in the process. If you are against the wall, the enemy hits you again immediately, and you’re doomed. If you fall off a cliff, you die, and enemies can and will push you off. And speaking of enemies, it’s also worth noting that the game has, essentially, four enemies with dozens of different skins and palette schemes. Oh, look – it’s the knight guy from the last room, only now he’s inexplicably a dragon-headed man. Oh, look – it’s another kind of bat with the exact same movement pattern as all the other varieties.
John’s Rating: 1.5 out of 5. Deadly Towers is a game that has been hailed by some as the very worst Nintendo has to offer, and while I heartily agree that the game is terrible, it sadly wouldn’t even make my top 10 list of worst Nintendo games of all time.
Bomberman is a game about a little robot guy who, presumably, lives in a dytopian future where sentient robots are relegated to menial production jobs and all structures are comprised of a combination of bricks and blast doors. Bomberman’s deepest wish is to become human, and he heard a rumor that any robot who makes it to the surface becomes human and gets to star in a considerably less fun game. As such, the bomb-making droid sets out on a quest to escape his dull factory existence and kill everyone in his path, a plan that is, frankly, awesome.
Arguably one of Nintendo’s greatest strengths has always been the ability of their publishers to create compelling characters that stand the test of time. Character concepts that stick with people by not trying to capitalize on “edgy” concepts the way that a lot of products of the 80’s and early 90’s did, but rather giving us silly, lovable figures that we can enjoy without added baggage. We love Mario because his defining characteristics are saving princesses and jumping on turtles. We love Kirby because his defining characteristics are self-inflation and eating everything in his path. We love Bomberman because he blows things up.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, this game is not good. I mean, really lousy. It is inconsistent, unforgiving and brutal in ways that are consistent with programming issues rather than deliberate efforts to make a hard game. Its controls are sticky and touchy at the same time, and the positioning of bombs can be genuinely bewildering. There is nostalgic value to the game, of course, but it’s not something I would invest a lot of time and effort into playing.
John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0. Playing this game is often a comedy of errors due not only to the scarcity of power-ups, but also to the dull playing fields, touchy bomb placement and ugly graphics. Fortunately, like a surprisingly large number of dull games with redeeming mechanics, it inspired many fruitful, glorious sequels, all equally filled with that awkward moment where you bomb yourself into a wall.