Jaws, the film, was about a shark that ate people. More than that, Jaws was about human conflict, fear of the unknown, fear of nature and fear of stagnation. The video game is still about a shark that eats people, but that’s really about it. Oh, and ecoterrorism. I’m pretty sure you play an ecoterrorist.
Like virtually all video games based on movies, Jaws is terrible and has little to do with the source material. In it, you are a fishing trawler / diver who must kill hundreds of jellyfish, manta ray and small sharks to collect enough shells to upgrade your weapons so you can kill Jaws. Like any good ecoterrorism simulator, there is a mini game where you drop bombs from a biplane onto dancing jellyfish.
John’s Rating: 1.5 out of 5.0. The gameplay is monotonous and dull, the “plot” in no way resembles that of the actual Jaws film or book and you never get a bigger boat, which was one of the shortcomings of the movie the game could have addressed.
Publisher: SNK Year: 1987 Genre: Shmup, Top-Scroll Old school top-down shooters are pretty generic – endless waves of faceless enemy drones trying to stall your efforts as you steadily plow your way across the battlefield. They’re more notable in their differences than their similarities. Ikari Warriors is one of the first, and has a number of features that worked very well, and others that were, perhaps, not so well considered.
Publisher: Data East Year: 1987 Genre: Shmup Side-Scroll In BreakThru, you are the driver of a jumpy car (a fairly common video game theme even today) who must drive into enemy territory, assault their base and recover a top secret jet of some sort (top-secret jets are also a fairly common theme).
Along the way, you’ll battle enemies that shoot constantly into the area you have to occupy to even have a chance to shoot them, parachutes that prevent their precious cargo from ever reaching all the way to the ground, and chunky controls that will kill you more effectively than any of the enemies can hope to.
John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0. There’s not too much mechanically wrong with this game, it’s just hard to pinpoint anything this game did right. The graphics are lackluster, the gameplay is bland and unsatisfying, the enemies are dull yet difficult, and although the sound is not overly annoying the best that can be said of it is that it is forgettable.
Space Shooters are a staple genre of the NES. You might recall me giving Gradius the first perfect score of this blog, so I’m certainly not biased against them. Shmups, as they are sometimes called, have represented a huge slice of the gaming pie – and a rather delicious slice at that!
Having said that, there are certain qualities I expect in a space shooter. The first is variety – repetition is a huge game killer for any sort of Shmup, so a large variety of environments and enemies is a must. The second is graphic consistency – if a game takes itself seriously, it should make an effort to do so throughout the entire experience, keeping powerups – for example – looking like part of the environment rather than annexes to the games graphic library. The third is a aesthetic quality – the audio and visual experiences should be unobtrusive if not pleasant. Alpha Mission is a generic space shooter example of not working very hard on any of this.
John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0. The only thing that stands out about this game to any meaningful degree is how annoying the music is. Beyond that, it’s pure vanilla paste.
The 80’s were an exciting time in the world of space exploration. America (and all those other countries that don’t matter) spent absurd amounts of money on space programs. Why? Because space was the next frontier of warfare, of course! Basically, every superpower (all two of them) and all those other countries that don’t matter wanted to put more blinky metal things up in the sky faster than anyone else so that they could perfect the art of putting blinky metal things in the sky. If any of their little blinky things had been the glorious Warp Rattler from Gradius, the Cold War would have been cut mercifully short.