The Legend of Kage

Publisher: Taito
Genre: Platform

In The Legend of Kage, you are a young ninja whose bride was stolen by other ninjas. You need to kill those ninjas and retrieve her so she can be kidnapped again in the bizarre ninja version of the circle of life.

A ninja in his natural habitat
A ninja in his natural habitat

Gameplay is fairly straightforward – some levels require you to move to the end and defeat a sort of one-hitpoint-wonder boss. Other levels require you to kill a certain number of ninjas. Still others require that you just scale to the top of an impossibly tall wall. Whatever the case, Unless you grab the orb-of-lets-you-get-hit-one-extra-time, you die one hit, and hits often happen arbitrarily, owing to the frequency with which ninjas throw shurikens in random direction and your (admittedly realistic) inability to control a jump after you leave the ground.

"Why oh why did I ever leave the ground?"
“Why oh why did I ever leave the ground?”

John’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5. With repetitive and painfully arbitrary gameplay, a dearth of enemy varieties, clumsy controls and poor hit detection, the Legend of Kage might be enjoyable to play through once or twice, but it wears quickly and ages poorly.

Kill the same four ninjas a hundred thousand times.
Kill the same four ninjas a hundred thousand times.

Kid Niki: Radical Ninja

Publisher: Data East
Year: 1987
Genre: Side-ScrollIn Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, you play the role of the titular kid ninja. Your bird was shot by an arrow and, in proper ninja form, you set out for revenge. The game consists of running along attacking ninjas and other enemies until you get to a boss.

Kid Niki: Lackluster Title Screen
Kid Niki: Lackluster Title Screen
The most interesting screencap I could get.
The most interesting screencap I could get.

There’s nothing wrong with this formula in general, but this execution is bland. I was a little torn as to whether to call this a “platform” game at all, given that there are no platforms to jump on top of. There are times you jump over pits and the like, sure, but you are always on the ground, with no over or under platforms.

Enemy attack patterns are predictable, but your radical ninja moves are sluggish, making evading most attacks impractical at best. Because of the lack of platforming or powerups in the game, the action is very linear and not particularly interesting. Compound this with the fact that hit detection is sporadic (at best) and you have a recipe for a completely forgettable game that probably isn’t worth your time.

John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0. Kid Niki is dull. It’s not even really good enough to make fun of. The bosses are clearly designed to be silly or zany, but I’m not feelin’ it.

Also has some tasteful religious imagery.
Also features tasteful religious imagery.

Kid Icarus

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.

I have nothing negative to say about this title screen.
Wrapped in a gorgeous title screen like most Greek myths.

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Gotcha!: The Sport

Publisher: LJN
Year: 1987
Genre: Side-Scroll, Zapper

Gotcha!: The Sport is a paintball capture the flag game based on, apparently, the film Gotcha!, which is in turn based on a variant on live action simulated assassination games, so the departure from source is made all the more conspicuous by the source’s departure from its own source material, and I’ve already talked about the origins of this game more than it deserves. This was a different era. They were willing to make video games out of any movie. We don’t do things like that anymore.

So much punctuation, they couldn't fit it all on just one screen.
So much punctuation, they couldn’t fit it all on just one screen.

You control the game with both the d-pad on the gamepad and the Zapper gun. This isn’t especially clumsy, as it’s relatively easy to hold a Zapper in one hand and manipulate the d-pad with the other, but playing the game made me wonder why they bothered. For one thing, even on the highest difficulty, I had no difficulty simply holding the pad to the right or left (depending on whether I was on my way to get the flag or on my way back from getting it) and shoot the enemies as I went. Heck, on the beginner level I didn’t NEED to shoot them – sometimes, simply by moving continuously, I could outrun them all.

The underground urban paintball scene, as imagined in the 1980's.
The underground urban paintball scene, as imagined in the 1980’s.
 John’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0. It might be an interesting novelty experience, but the game doesn’t offer much in the line of variety. On top of that, there are a lot of counter-intuitive quirks, such as ammunition only being reduced by misses (or being shot) and enemy hitboxes that disappear behind soft cover. This might be the sort of game you play once or twice as a curiosity, but it’s not really good for ongoing play.

The Goonies II

Publisher: Konami
Year: 1987
Genre: Platform – Side-Scroll, Adventure

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?


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