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Review: The Punisher (NES)

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punisher_nes_boxConsole: NES
Released: 1990
Developer: Beam Software
Publisher: LJN
Difficulty: Moderate
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Played as a child? Yes
Price: $5.88 (used)  $27.47 (complete) $130.00 (new)
Famicom Version? No, this was Nintendo only
Ports: Gameboy (differences, see below)
Digital Release? No

In probably one of the most doomed to fail ideas, I have to admit that in my childhood The Punisher was my first taste of what would later establish a love for light gun and first-person shooters alike.  Ironically, this title is neither.  It takes the crosshair light gun motif we first saw in Operation Wolf and adapts it into a third-person shooter (without light gun) that integrated upgrades and even brawler elements to an otherwise rote shooter title.  Released in 1990, and despite the common license and title that holds no similarity to other games, The Punisher was a licensed LJN game that proved you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  In short, I loved this flawed, aggressive shooter.

punisher_2Your task is to take down some of the biggest criminals the city has to offer, including longtime Punisher nemesis Jigsaw, in a series of levels.  Interestingly enough, you aren’t forced into linear progression; the game allows you to choose any of the three initial targets to go after.  As you take out each one, the remaining two targets become available levels until your final option, Kingpin, becomes the only level and boss.  With each target you are given two levels to conquer, each containing power-ups, ammo, and grenades to help build up your arsenal, and a final encounter with the target themself.  Unfortunately the power of choice, at least for me, is tarnished by the fact that doing the levels in their obvious order (from left to right) seems to be the only viable way to complete the game.  Along the way you will take out a massive army of the game’s three or four enemy types and eventually make your way to a boss.  The biggest hurdle is that if you run out of lives, it’s game over.  No continues, no second chances.  This isn’t really a deal breaker, it just establishes long bouts between attempts to finish the game.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Posted in NES, Reviews, Videos

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Beat Hazard (Cold Beam Games)

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When I think about the combination of music and video games, I can’t help but think Konami and Harmonix.  Thanks to the Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) series by Konami – c’mon gamers, everyone tried it at one point – your love for music and games could be realized.  Unfortunately the series focused on techno music, many tracks from Japan, and there wasn’t that connection with the songs you really wanted (although there was this awesome DDR on the original Xbox that had a remix of the Neverending Story Theme).  Enter Harmonix, a company that made its humble beginnings in similar techno infused video games with titles like Frequency, and its idea to take a big cumbersome plastic guitar and mix it with hard rock tunes.  Guitar Hero and the slew of spin-offs that Activision juiced out of it had one painful flaw: you were still limited with the songs that were released.  Even today Rock Band has thousands of songs but you aren’t able to pick anything you want/like.  That’s where Beat Hazard comes in.  A twin-stick shmup that utilizes any music track you provide to create an entire level lasting the length of that track.

Okay, let’s get the setup clear because a “level” will be in a fixed location (Asteroids, Geometry Wars) and not a scrolling level (Gradius, R-Type).  Enemies will appear along with certain aspects of the code to generate the various obstacles that will be thrown at you – everything from actual asteroids to large bosses.  I don’t think that developer Cold Beam Games has released any info on how the game is able to take your music and create a level, but if I were the developer I’d keep that secret until my game had run its course.  Even more impressive is that Cold Beam Games CEO Steve Hunt appears to have created (and possibly developed) the game by himself, although I can’t find concrete evidence of that.  In addition, Hunt admits to taking the addictive concept in Geometry Wars and adapting it to taking codes from MP3 files.  As time has gone on he has updated the game as well as created a definitive version, Beat Hazard Ultra, which now supports many formats such as iTunes’ AAC format and even streaming formats like those found on Last FM.  The original, which can be found on the XNA community channel on Xbox Live, only supports MP3 files as far as I know.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Shmuppreciation 2012

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