When you think of good platformers for the NES, many of the casual crowd would immediately flock to Contra, Mega Man, Ducktales, and the like. However, with a massive library of carts at each gamer's disposal (especially with the availability of roms) great games often get overlooked. Frequently the question of favorite game comes up, and right now we're gonna dive into G.I. Joe : A Real American Hero.
Ever since my first voyages into the video rental stores of old, this game had me hooked - I can say with certainty that I rented this game at least 15 times. Joe was huge in the 80's and my childhood started towards the end of the Joe cartoon cycle, being able to catch episodes occasionally in the mornings. The lack of Duke had me pining for other G.I. outlets, and you can only imagine the glee my 6 year old self experienced when I discovered there was a NES game. I'm sure I wasn't the only one with this fascination, but it leads me to wonder why more people overlook this game for more popular titles.
Anyways, I could talk about times of old all day and night, but let's get down to the meat, my take and rating of the game.
Without going into much detail (given there isn't much insight as to the story), G.I. Joe has been enlisted once again to save the world from Cobra, and it's up to Duke, Snake Eyes, Rock n' Roll, Blizzard, and Grid Iron to bring the pain.
Each character is assigned a rating in 4 stat categories which determine the strength of their abilities, none of these are too important save for Jump, in which Snake Eyes dominates (along with his powerful sword, and ninja projectiles which do not consume ammo) making him the ideal choice for any party. The categories are as follows:
Stamina - Health Jump - Height Punch - Melee Power Weapon - Projectile Power / Spread
Stamina can be upgraded with an insignia pickup, as can Weapon and Punch (divided into 4 power levels, as well as bullet spread for guns, hadouken for Snake Eyes)
Levels are divided into 3 sections, usually consisting of a single direction platform stage, a bomb defusal stage, and a main boss arena. The password system will take you to the beginning of an episode, not a specific section.
These basics are easily picked up within a stage or two of the game, so with that primer you should be more than adequately prepared, bringing us to a quick synopsis of the review categories: (finally...)
Graphics - A - As for any NES game, this has debatably had a hard time aging, although it resides much higher up on the curve than most. Animated backgrounds, enemies jumping from the foreground, and the intricate design style is something that much effort was spent on. The sprites are smooth and the colors are vibrant, keeping the screen interesting at all times. You may not even notice but there is a short cutscene or two weaved in, giving shape to the story (at times, hah). A Real American Hero easily deserves an A for the NES era.
Sound - A - There are some memorable tunes packed in this one, but since the game was not as popular as other titles (most likely due to availability) the music can often be overlooked. NES buffs alike can appreciate the use of the NES' sound capabilities in this one. Hell, the title screen music gets you pumped.
Gameplay - A - Varied level settings, superb control, and guns (of course) is always a recipe for a great game. G.I. Joe hits the bullseye in this department, and it becomes immediately apparent as you begin your foray into kickin' some Cobra. The only thing Contra has on the gameplay here is the Co-Op. Contra force should have taken a lesson. Difficulty can be tough on a few of the bosses and later bomb defusal levels, but with enough experience and motivation it can be overcome easily. This game is not tedious like Ghosts n' Goblins, but instead difficult enough to be rewarding once completed.
Replay Value - B(-) - The character selection is really the only pro here for replayability, once you've beaten it, it's done. The password system is nice in case you'd like to replay a specific level. Completing the game can take a few hours unless you know how to navigate the levels.
Learning Curve - B+ - Once again, excellent controls make for a swift acclimation to the game's mechanics, and the finer points become apparent quickly, grenades and wall latching come to mind. The bomb levels can take some time to figure out where you're going.
Overall, this game is a diamond in the rough. If you'd like to argue that, don't bother. There's little to debate. With the NES library spanning over 700 games, this one tops the charts for me and AT LEAST deserves a play from you. Capcom realized this enough to produce a sequel with more characters and the same engine (although with worse boss battles and level design), and everyone loves Capcom right? The game is good enough to still command a $20 price tag (although it may be hard to track down). Take it from me and get this game, you'll enjoy it.