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Classic Review Edition
Page 3

Donkey Kong was released in 1981, and caught on quite well in both Japanese arcades, as well as North American arcades. And in 1986, this game was released onto an NES cartridge. However, despite its age, I still think it could have been better, maybe not in the arcade version, but CERTAINLY in the NES version.

So here's the megacool storyline for the game. Big stupid ape snatches hero's girlfriend, hero climbs many construction beams to save her. Classic story, isn't it?

The graphics were outstanding for its time, but compared to ANYTHING nowadays, they are such lousy graphics. But I'm sure that in 1981, no one minded, because they were top-notch graphics. Not anymore!

In the sound department, you had perhaps one or two single-second jingles, like when your character died, or when you got to the apple of your eye, Pauline. However, there were noises in there, such as jumping noises, hammer noises, etc. Barely anything to really enjoy.

Where's the challenge? You repeat the same four scenes over and over and over again! Of course, due to lack of space on the NES cartridge, you play the same three scenes over and over and over again. Not very interesting.

I gave it a 4.5 because as much as I seem to be bashing it, it's a fun game for a while. If you see it in arcades, or on an NES cartridge, give it a whirl. You may find it to be the game of your dreams.

FINAL SCORE: 4.5/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
Wow, what a short review. But I suppose when you have a game as simplistic as this, you don't need to say too much, although that doesn't quite explain how I was able to say so much about equally simple titles such as Donkey Kong Jr. Math and Tetris on my current website. Donkey Kong isn't that awesome of a game, but it can still be entertaining, at least the first trip around. But considering that it was considered almost "revolutionary" in a way, I ought to give it credit. ...Nah, it gets old fast.

Check out our more recent and thorough review of the arcade version of Donkey Kong!


I managed to read a small advertisement in the local newspaper about a yard sale where someone was selling off all their stock from a movie and video game rental store. I got up at 8 o'clock in the morning sharp just to get out there early and make sure I got the best pickings. There was a medium-sized table and two boxes, one filled with SNES games and the other filled with NES games. The man who was selling these materials said that I could have a special deal of five NES games for only three dollars each, but ONLY if I bought five. I had to jump at such a deal, so I fiddled through the box and picked out five quality titles. Double Dragon was one of them.

After taking all of the snazzy games out of their respective boxes, I glared at the hip posters that came with them, and then ran upstairs to try out my new purchases. I popped in Double Dragon, and I was hooked as soon as I heard the introductory music for the first mission (the olive-colored screen with the words MISSION 1 at the bottom). Then I started fighting the enemies that came at me with a good kick-and-punch routine. It is a real thrill to kill enemies as they come at you. I knew my three dollars had gone to a good cause.

The strange idea that the designers placed into here is a type of "experience" system, where after you defeat enough enemies, you will get a technical upgrade and learn a new move. This is strange, but it works well once you get deep into the game, because you can then execute powerful moves such as the Spin Kick and the Pin Attack. This feature was removed from all sequels of the game.

According to the manual, the story of the game goes as follows: "Double Dragon is the story of Billy and Jimmy Lee, twin brothers who learned to fight on the cold, tough streets of their city. Their expert knowledge of the martial arts, combined with their street-smarts, has made them both formidable fighting machines. But now Billy is faced with his greatest challenge: his girlfriend, Marian, has been kidnapped by the Black Warriors, the savage street gang of the mysterious Shadow Boss! Using whatever weapons come to hand-knives, whips, bats, rocks, oil drums, even dynamite-Billy must pursue the gang throught the slums, factories, and wooded outskirts of the city to reach the hideout for his final confrontation with the Shadow Boss...his brother Jimmy!" I suppose this is a definite tale of true sibling rivalry.

I was interested in the amusing graphics that the game uses. These are classic Technos-brand brawler graphics. They always have the same type of semi-detailed sprites with colorful clothing as all the other Technos games do (River City Ransom, Super Dodge Ball, and more). In this case, MOST of the enemies are in reasonable proportion to Billy Lee, with the exception of the really big boss Abobo, who is VERY big and burly. The backgrounds are also decent, though nothing that would drop any jaws.

The sound found in the game is funny. While the punch and kick noises are easily ignored, the ultimately catchy music is not. You may be tempted to put your controller down and start break-dancing in the den. Family members will call the psychiatric ward, but it's worth it with a few of those tunes. The only quarrel I have is that some of the music in the forest level (MISSION 3) is quite out of place. There are portions where it sounds like you're listening to a malfunctioning ham radio. That's just a Double Dragon oddity.

The controller is something of great power, and one of the greatest examples of this is while playing Double Dragon for the NES. Every time I want my character to kick or punch or do whatever, he does it. It's almost flawless, though I get ticked off when I can't do anything while being walloped in the head.

This is one of the top NES games that I own, and I think that it really deserves a top rating in the fun department. If you want to have fun, this cartridge delivers! You, the player, will absolutely have loads of fun knocking down enemy after enemy with either your bare knuckle or a weapon you pick up off the ground. I enjoy tossing barrels at foes, or whipping them in the eye with Linda's whip that she drops when you hit her. Oh...perhaps I forgot to mention that you can hit women in this game. If you're an active feminist, then chances are you'll complain. It's a fun game nonetheless. I'm such a male chauvinist.

Overall, it's a well-presented game that originally came from an arcade smash-hit. Of course, if you thought the arcade version was difficult, worry no more about this copy. It has been made a lot easier for beginners, but will still provide a challenge for the fighter elite. So join the loyal group of Double Dragon followers. It will prove that the NES can still churn out fun by the bundle.

FINAL SCORE: 8.3/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
I played Double Dragon again for the first time in a while recently, and to be honest, it's not that great. Granted, there is fun to be had here in the simplistic beating up of enemies, but there are some major flaws with this title that I did not fully explore in my review. The difficulty level is questionable, the experience system does not quite fit in here, and the two-player mode is a joke. The NES sequel, "Double Dragon II: The Revenge", is far superior to this in every way. If, by amazing coincidence, you are currently deciding between these two NES Double Dragon games, choose the second one and never look back. 8.3 out of 10? Really...

There was once a powerful series of games, developed by Konami, where your character would shoot an ongoing barrage of guardsmen to defeat a giant alien who wishes to take over the planet. This was the Contra series. However, around 1993, those who worked on the Contra series split from Konami to form their own developing company, and entitled it Treasure. It was by this very company that there was a platform-shooter that surpassed the excitement of the Contra series. It featured enough action that you could not remove your eyes from the screen. This game has been hailed as the BEST platform-shooter yet. Welcome to the world of Gunstar Heroes.

Treasure has definitely brought colour to the Sega Genesis with this title. It was only a shame that Gunstar Heroes was not marketed as well as it should have been. For reasons unknown, Sega assumed that Gunstar Heroes would not have much success in North America, disregardless of the obvious "Contra craze". Therefore, one may have gone to buy a Genesis game and never have heard of Gunstar Heroes. However, because this is such a great game, large companies should put more thought into their marketing decisions. Gunstar Heroes was not a success because of Sega.

So, what's the big story behind all the explosions? Apparently, a long time ago, some angry demon was confined into four different-coloured crystals. Now, a nutty old emperor wants to gain the power of the crystals to help him take over the world. The emperor attacks the planet Gunstar 9 to retrieve them. Now, two characters, cheesily named Red and Blue, must stop the disturbances created by the emperor's gang of crystal thieves. As soon as they equip their weapon of choice, they set themselves off on a quest involving constant weapon fire and keeping their eyes peeled for evil minions.

Thus begins the adventure that is Gunstar Heroes. At the beginning, you are able to choose between four types of weapons (fire, homing, laser, force), as well as which of four levels you wish to begin in. In each of these four levels, you must go through them, destroying any enemy or boss that gets in your path and obtain one of the four crystals. Four characters have those crystals (and they too have uninspired names), and they are Pink, Green, Orange, and Black. Types of levels include an underground tunnel, a mechanical construction site, and even a mysterious board game setting. There is plenty of variety in levels, so worry not about boredom. Following the retrieval of all four crystals is a space shooter level, and finally a confrontation with the emperor's gang, along with their big robot machines. A final confrontation is made at the very end with a shiny golden robot, which will certainly prove to be the hardest boss in the game for sure!

Treasure was able to do graphical things with this game that had not been done before. Such examples of visual genius include the rotating Gunstar Heroes logo and some rotations made by bosses. It is surely a treat to look at. Also, the sound department is just as good; the music fits all the levels well, and the sound effects are certainly accurate enough. You will never get tired of the sound or graphics in this game.

Gunstar Heroes is more of a rarity nowadays due to lack of a high number of sales, so if you are one of the lucky people who find one, perhaps at a used video game store, be sure to pick up that copy (unless you don't have a Genesis system, in which case, you're stuck). It is a wise investment, and the game will likely last you a while. It will make sure you don't even blink.

FINAL SCORE: 8.7/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
First and foremost, I realize that I used the word "disregardless", which I absolutely MUST apologize for. I would never commit such murder of the English language these days. Anyway, after checking out this review, I feel that my score for Gunstar Heroes is actually way too low! It is an amazing game that, aside from the Contra series, should be considered a milestone for the genre. Since this review's posting, I know that this game has appeared on the Wii's Virtual Console, as well as in the form of a pseudo-sequel, Gunstar Super Heroes, for the Game Boy Advance. Find this game however you can.

Are you tired of all those mainstream game series like Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, and Final Fantasy? Would you prefer playing one of the more laidback and less popular games, and become a video game rebel? Well, there are many games out there that are awesome games but do not get recognition for the developers' exuberant efforts. There's also Karnov.

Karnov was released in the later 1980's by Data East for the N.E.S. system, and although it was not a largely publicized game like every Mario and Pikachu game around, it still was given notice by many. They may have seen Karnov advertised on the backs of posters that were packaged in other Data East games, or even may have wanted it because of the cool picture on the Karnov box in the store. Either way, Karnov sold some copies somehow, but many of the gamers were not impressed by this ultimately unusual yet enticing product. Perhaps some better advertising strategies could have helped this game succeed, but perhaps maybe a more complete game would have done some good too.

This version of Karnov takes directly from its arcade counterpart of the same name. You control Karnov, the Russian circus strongman! Your overall goal, should you choose to read the manual (as the game itself has no indication of a storyline whatsoever), is to locate the Lost Treasure of Babylon, and take it! Of course, at the very end, there is no sign of that treasure. Here is the complete story, not only to fill up space, but to inform you of Karnov's background: "The story of Karnov begins in the peaceful village of Creamina, where the Treasure of Babylon has been kept for centuries, hidden away from the outside world. The Treasure has been sought by Ryu, a huge and evil dragon, for thousands of years. But now, Ryu has discovered the secret of Creamina and descended upon the little village, accompanied by all of his demonic cohorts. Ryu has made off with the Treasure, leaving his monstrous minions behind to terrorize the countryside. The helpless townsfolk have only one hope: Jinborov Karnovski, otherwise known as Karnov, a one-time circus strong man with a unique talent for shooting fireballs. Only Karnov can find a way through the monster-infested countryside, to seek out the evil Ryu and regain the Lost Treasure of Babylon for his people!" Fight for everlasting peace, Jinborov Karnovski!

Wow! Check out the bland backgrounds and somewhat detailed but extremely strange sprites this game has! I still have to admit one thing though -- red pants are definitely a good look for Karnov. Yes, the graphics don't boast a lot, but they are not all that terrible either. They suit the wacky atmosphere to the fullest extent. The sound is also simple, even more so than the graphics. You will hear the same tune for most of the stages, and sometimes you will find yourself wasting the time just so you can hear different music (since it changes when your time is getting low).

However, the big disappointment you will face is the ending. You've spent a long time trailing yourself through this very difficult game where enemies pop up out of nowhere. You jumped off many platforms and quickly realized that there is no ground to land on. You've battled many bosses while turning blue after getting hurt in the process. Then at the end, I hate to spoil your game, but there's no treasure. There's only a black screen saying "CONGRATULATIONS! THE END". What vile programmer has incorporated this travesty?

However, nothing beats the overall aura of the game, which is worth the play time. If ever you find a copy, first make sure it's not overly expensive, and then buy it. You will find it a tad difficult, but also amusing to see Karnov turn blue when injured, or shoot fireballs from out of nowhere. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any Karnov reincarnations for upcoming systems, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for Karnov on the GBA!

FINAL SCORE: 7.0/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
Sometime during the winter of 2007, I reviewed this game for the second time. My re-review was actually much more scathing than the first one; in fact, there is quite a significant discrepancy between the two scores. I understand that there is some charm to Karnov, but when I looked at it the second time around, I realized the truth about the real quality of this game, which is not particularly high. The gameplay is quite unusual and I don't quite understand why the programmers left the game in its final state. And let's not even talk about that bulls*** ending.

Check out our more recent and thorough review of Karnov!

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