Points: 5
Cover Story: It Came From Outer Space!
Hidden Gems

...continued, (page 2 of 3)

Adventures of Lolo
HAL | 1990 | Puzzle

Puzzle games these days generally tend to be of the falling block variety, or some variation thereof. You get a few occasionally that actually involve solving puzzles, but they're much less common than they really ought to be. But the Adventures of Lolo series gave the NES something even rarer -- a great action-puzzle trilogy.

Each of the hundred or so levels confronting hero Lolo are devious mazes, packed with tools, treasures and enemies. Completing each stage is a matter of collecting items in the proper order. Certain enemies can be stunned or destroyed; some can destroy Lolo on impact (or even on sight), while others simply get in the way. Every new stage is an increasingly complex puzzle that must be solved with quick thinking and, at times, sharp reflexes.

HAL Labs seems to have forgotten about Lolo (though there's a rumor that Kirby's rival Meta-Knight is actually Lolo in disguise), but it's their loss. Gamers will always have his NES exploits to enjoy, and they're definitely worth tracking down.

Legacy of the Wizard
Falcom/Broderbund | 1988 | Adventure

A dungeon crawler cross-bred with a platformer, Legacy of the Wizard had too-cute graphics that belied it deadly-hard gameplay. With a massive, winding labyrinth to explore and an entire family of characters to control, Wizard was one of the most challenging but rewarding hidden gems of the NES.

Ray Barnholt:
One of many Dragon Slayer games from Falcom, Legacy of the Wizard is an oddly charming, Metroid-esque action RPG that embodies the '80s gaming spirit of incredible challenge. The reason why belongs to the stupidly huge game map and a whole lot of backtracking to do in it. Finding those magic crowns was bad enough, but having to accomplish it with all four members of the family was something nearly unimaginable. So I never really beat it. Admittedly, LOTW became one of my favorites for a rather superficial reason: the opening area outside the family cabin just looked so scenic, with the big trees and the castle on the hill off in the distance, a subtle reminder of your goal to destroy the dragon and bring peace to the world. That coupled with Yuzo Koshiro's repetitive but no less well-done soundtrack earned it a place in my heart. I was an imaginative kid, I guess.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Konami | 1990 | Action

The third NES Castlevania was unquestionably the best: Bigger than the first, less confusing than the second, with incredible music and visuals to die for. Branching paths, an extra-difficult second quest and multiple endings (depending on your character choices) kept the replay value high while great gameplay kept replay interest lively as well.

Mohammed Ganai:
While Simon's Quest went the adventure path, Castlevania III managed to do non-linear while keeping within the traditional paradigm. But it wasn't the branching paths alone that made it great: the levels within were quite memorable, the difficulty was just about right, and the musical compositions stellar. The extra characters could do great things too, particularly Sypha, who could fry Death in four hits. If Koji Igarashi ever tires of the Metroidvania blueprint, he should consider creating more traditional games like this and Dracula X.

Bubble Bobble
Taito | 1987 | Action

If you have ever played Bubble Bobble, you can hum its theme music. In fact, you probably won't be able to get it out of your head.

There are 100 stages in Bubble Bobble, and every one of them is accompanied by the same giddily infectious 35-second musical loop. Finishing the game takes a few hours, which amounts to hearing the same tune played over and over roughly 150 times.

And yet, gamers happily subject themselves to the aural torture. They celebrate the Bubble Bobble them with remixes and covers. Why? Because Bubble Bobble is a frickin' incredible game, that's why.

Simple action at its finest, Taito's arcade conversion is graphically minimal and has deceptively unadorned gameplay. Blow bubbles, trap enemies, pop bubble, collect fruit, move on to the next stage. And yet, there are countless hidden depths to the gameplay; jump on a bubble just so and you can use it to reach higher areas; collect special power-ups to improve your abilities; and see if maybe you can unravel the mysteries of what makes different collectibles appear in different playthroughs.

Oh, and bring a friend. Otherwise you'll find that this is not a true ending. Only love will save the day. Love, or at the very least a strong tolerance for Player 2.

Clash at Demonhead
Vic Tokai | 1989 | Action

You know, there was a time when publishers went out of their way to make the U.S. versions of Japanese games look less, well, Japanese. Anime and manga stylings will never sell to Americans, they told themselves in an uncanny example of their utter inability to predict the future. Better make our spunky young characters characters look like 40-year-olds in bad aerobics outfits!

But not Vic Tokai. It left Billy "Bang" Blitz every bit as eccentric as he was in Japan, and the rest of his adventure, too. Maybe that's why Demonhead holds up so well 16 years later -- it's more in line with the offbeat games we're used to seeing today. Oh, and the immense, convoluted world and creative gameplay probably don't hurt, either.

Nich Maragos:
Clash at Demonhead didn't do much new, but this was one of the first games to do it all. Platforming action? Check. Nonlinear branching levels? Got it. An in-game economy with purchasable weapons, items, and equipment? Absolutely. And on top of all that, the game had a winning (if nonsensical) storyline, memorable boss encounters, and a skill tree upgradable by visiting a mystical guru. Every new pathway felt new and unexpected, and certain moments like donning the lava-diving suit or the encounter with the fake Mary were enough to forever blow our 10-year-old mind.



Whether they were total rip-offs or just totally terrible, these five NES games will go down in infamy for their utter lack of shame.

Rare/Tradewest | 1991 | Action

Let's see... a team of amphibious martial arts heroes with thematic names and a crotchety but wise master of a less reptilian nature? Funny, that sounds suspiciously like a certain group of Ninja Turtles who were remarkably popular at the time of Battletoads' release. Add to that a villainess who looks like Jessica Rabbit after a trip to the fetish shop and you have one of the most transparent bids to ride someone else's coattails on the NES.

The Krion Conquest
Vic Tokai | 1991 | Action

While the box art to The Krion Conquest made it look like a game about Glenda the Good Witch, the in-game graphics revealed the horrible truth: It was a shameless Mega Man clone. From heroine Francesca's bug-eyed blinky stare to the special tools she could use to reach higher platforms, Vic Tokai was ripping off Capcom hardcore. Oops! They forgot to copy the fun.

The Battle of Olympus
Broderbund | 1988 | Adventure

Zelda II drew a lot of flack for being so wildly different from the original Legend of Zelda, but that didn't stop a whole lot of developers from ripping it off. Faxanadu and Moon Crystal were among the most blatant, but none were as straightforward as The Battle of Olympus. It didn't just play like Zelda II, it looked like it. The hero even had the same sword-and-shield skills as Link. Need more proof? Well, the final confrontation involved a shadow-based gimmick. There you go.

Whomp 'Em
Jaleco | 1991 | Action

What's more shameless about Whomp 'Em: Its willful imitation of Mario and Mega Man, or the fact that Jaleco's localizers figured they could transform a video game based on the Journey to the West into a game about the Wild West by simply editing Son Goku's sprite into a brave little Native American warrior? Trick question! They're equally bad.

Dr. Mario
Nintendo | 1990 | Puzzle

Tetris was a big, big deal. And Dr. Mario was the first game to steal its "things fall, line 'em up to make 'em disappear" design wholesale, distilling something intense and addictive into a much less entertaining form. Though certainly far from the last.

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