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NES review – Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril

Didn’t think that would ever happen. Here I am, reviewing a new NES game. It came out just a few weeks ago(as of the writing of this post), and it was all made by one guy, nicknamed Sivak (click here for his youtube channel). Yeah, when I heard about the game and saw gameplay videos, I was instantly excited for it. I mean, a new NES game in an NES cartridge, and it actually looked good? I had to play it. And what a nice addition to my continually growing NES collection too, which is now over 120 games big.

After a few months of waiting, it finally came for sale, and I got it within minutes, not long before it sold out.

Read on and see if Sivak made a masterpiece, or if was just a dud.

Developer: Sivak Games
Publisher: Retrozone
Date of Release: February 23rd 2010
Platforms: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Genre: Side-scrolling Platformer
Players: 1
No rating, but it would be an E for Everyone if it did

The cartridge itself
This is the first time I bought something from Retrozone. You can visit their website at www.retrousb.com for this game and a few other cool products (like a really cool looking NWC cart reproduction). So before talking about the game, I’ll talk about the package I received here. And just a note here, but their shipping prices are WAY too high. 12$ of shipping to send an NES cartridge? That’s BS.

Anyways… The cartridge is a clear green color and it looks really nice. It’s shaped just like actual NES cartridges, and feels similar. The plastic used for the cartridge is not cheap flimsy plastic, though I’d say a tad bit cheaper than on actual NES cartridges. Here’s a picture of what you get when you buy the game:

The game itself is made to work on any NES that has a 72-pin connector (NTSC, PAL A, PAL B, some Asian Systems), as well as clone systems. Unless the connector in your NES is in really bad condition, the game will work 100% of the time. If it doesn’t work in one shot, just press the reset button on the NES, until the Ciclone chip isets itself to the region your NES is, and afterwards you’ll have no problem with it. If it somehow still doesn’t work after resetting the NES a few times, buy a new 72-pin connector and replace it (it’s REALLY easy). I have a new 72-pin connector on my NES, and the game has always worked perfectly. Good stuff.

This game also comes with an instruction manual, and I think it’s pretty cool. This is from the first sold print of the game though, and there are a few minor printing errors, though later batches I think have it corrected. The manual itself is pretty nice. It details the story, powerups and enemies, and it has that old-school feel to it. And it includes a notes section to write down passwords and such. Not the coolest NES manual out there, but very nice nonetheless.

Overall it’s a nice product. It looks good, it plays perfectly, it comes with a dust cover which helps, and the manual is a fun addition. The only way to make it cooler would be to have a box, but that would have made the game cost more.

Presentation
Being on the NES, the game obviously sports 8-bit graphics. While the game looks a bit repetitive, but that’s not to say that it looks bad. There’s a lot of visual variety, with each area in the game looking different enough from the rest to be recognizable. Different backgrounds, the tiles making up the walls look distinct, some have animation going on, stuff like that. There’s never too many things on screen, but at the few times where there are, there’s never any slowdown, which is really nice. The character design is incredibly simple. Timmy, the main character, is just a simple square head with a tiny green body and balls for hands. Similarly, the enemy design is also very simple: balls, lemons, round things with a big eye, it’s never too complicated, but the enemies are actually quite detailed. The bosses on the other hand look really cool. They’re a lot more detailed than the average enemy, and generally a lot bigger, with some taking half the screen.  The animation is incredibly simple, with almost everything having no more than 3 frames of animation. Some things don’t even have 2. That might seem lame to modern gamers, but it’s pretty good and fits perfectly with the gameplay. Overall the game looks really good for an NES game. Not the best on the system, but it’s definitely up there.

The graphics are nice and simple

Sound-wise, the game uses the NES’ sound chip perfectly. The music (you can hear one of the tunes on the game’s trailer) sounds really good. It’s all original music written by Sivak, and there’s not much I can complain about. Each tune, except for the save room music, is nicely composed, featuring nice melodies, cool engaging rhythms, and nice backing sounds. If it would have been an actual NES game of the old, I’d think a tune or two in there might be considered classics, or at least be relatively popular.

Other than the music, the rest of the sound effects are okay. There’s actually not that many sounds, and some are remade from older games. For example, the sound for the disappearing blocks sound just like in Mega Man, and the sound when you jump underwater is very similar to the swimming sound in NES Mario games. Otherwise, the sounds for shooting bullets, or various other attacks, are distinct and easy to the ear. And thankfully the dying sound isn’t annoying at all… This is a really good thing, since you’ll be hearing it a lot.

And finally the story. It’s just like almost any other NES storyline. “There’s an evil group planning to take over the world, only you can stop them”. Gotta love those NES stories that really don’t need any kind of detailing and that are simple and to the point. And just like any good NES storyline, most of the story is explained in the instruction manual rather than the game itself. There’s even an excuse in the story as to why Timmy dies in one hit, which I thought was pretty funny. Cool stuff I say. It pokes fun at the simple story of the old days, while using the same kind of story.

Gameplay
The game is inspired greatly by I Wanna Be The Guy, a very sadistically hard game with a ton of cheap death-traps. It also takes various ideas from the Mega Man franchise, as well as Metroid. So the gameplay will feel quite familiar to anyone who ever played an NES game.

Basics
Battle Kid is a side-scrolling platformer. Like most games of the genre, the controls are deceptively simple. A jumps, B shoots, the D-pad moves your character. Eventually you get an item that enables you to float, which is done by holding Up on the D-pad. The controls are really easy to learn, which leads to having a lot of time to learn how to actually play the game. Timmy moves surprisingly fast, both while walking and jumping, and, unless you use the floating item, he goes down very fast after reaching the height of his jump. Speaking of which, like most platformers, the time you hold the jump button determines how high you’ll jump, which is a very useful skill to learn. As for the shooting, it’s quite similar to Mega Man, where you can’t have more than 3 shots on the screen at once.

There’s a relatively large cast of enemies. Each enemy type has a different pattern. Some just walk, some shot at certain intervals, some fly, some fly and shoot, some move in a certain pattern or based on where you are on the screen, and the list goes on. What’s nice is that every enemy type always acts exactly the same. For example, that one-eyed enemy that shoots at a regular interval will always shoot at the same interval, and will always be vulnerable to attacks during the same timing, no matter where you see said enemy in the game. So when you see an enemy more than once, the way he acts will never change, which helps a lot as the game progresses.

Game flow
The game flow is very similar to that of Metroid, but a little bit more straight-forward. Instead of levels, you have one big map. You will be going through a multitude of rooms filled with traps and enemies. After a series of rooms you’ll find save points(which give you a password). After a while, you’ll fight a boss. Sometimes after going through rooms you’ll find items, which grant you new abilities, or keys to open up certain numbered blocks. Just like in Metroid, you then use those new abilities or keys to get to an area you couldn’t before. You found that item that let’s you jump a bit higher? Well you can go to that place you saw before where your jump height was just a bit too short to reach. The float power-up? Well there’s this long gap you couldn’t jump normally across some time earlier, now you can.

Finding where to go next is never hard. Most of the time you will pass in a room that you can’t go through for some reason or another, and finding the proper item will enable you to go there. If you’re really not sure, you can always go back to the first save room in the game (using a teleport room if possible), since there’s a computer there that gives you hint as to where to go next. Though I found that randomly wandering around usually led me to the next area.

Eventually you find all the power-ups (other than, maybe, the optional fourth key and the attack power-up) and kill off all the bosses. That’s when you can enter a room where you see images of all the bosses, and a gate representing each of them, which open when you kill them. That leads to the stupidly hard end of the game, and to the last 2 final bosses.

I have only one complaint in regard with the game flow here: there’s no in-game map. Yeah, you CAN draw a map yourself, that’s the old-school way, but you have an item that tells you your current coordinates in the map, so why no access to said map? That would make navigating the game a lot easier.

Difficutly
This game is hard. Very much so. Don’t be surprised if you die over 100 times just to reach the first boss.
If I had to rank it in difficulty compared to other NES games, I’d say: easier than Ghosts n’ Goblins and Battletoads. Quite a bit harder than any of the Mega Man games. And it’s a whole lot easier than I Wanna Be The Guy, which this game is based on.

The game’s difficulty is based on 3 things: control mastery, timing and memorization. Each time you enter a new room, the enemy placement and room shape is completely different, requiring to learn the best path, and the best timing to get past enemy attacks. That is… rarely an easy task. You must be quick about it too, because some rooms will kill you really quickly if you take time to think. Once a room kills you a few million times, you’ll eventually figure out the timing you need to take to get past it, and eventually you’ll be good enough to get through the room without trouble. That is unless you don’t totally master the control, or just aren’t very good at memorization. It happened to me tons of times, where I didn’t jump high enough, or jumped too high, or moved a bit too much in a direction, which lead me to my death in rooms that I thought I could do perfectly. Another big part of the difficulty here is that everything, no exception, kills you in one hit, which is why you have to do your best not to do any errors. The hit detection is perfect, so if you die it’s always your own fault. One good thing is that there’s never any cheap deaths. There’s a few newb traps, but those will only kill you once if you’re careful.

The game is thankfully not very punishing despite its high difficulty. Every few rooms you get to a save point. The save point gives you a password(you only actually get the password when you die) which you can use to get back to where you were, and when you die you return to that save point. In the easy and normal difficulty levels, you get the password system, and infinite continues. But on easy your character is pink, to show how much of a wuss you are, and you get an attack power-up.

If the normal difficulty is somehow not enough for you, there’s 3 harder difficulty levels. All of them do not use passwords, so you have to beat the game in one sitting. They also limit the number of continues you have. Hard gives you 50 continues, Very Hard gives you 20, and the Unfair difficulty gives you none. So the difficulty is sort of adjustable. None of the difficulty levels change the content of each room though, so the traps will be just as tough no matter what, other than the monsters dying faster in easy mode. And if you’re really into it, every room is made so that you can speedrun them, and finding the fastest way to go through a room is quite satisfactory. Incentive to complete the game on higher difficulties? Well they give different password for various hidden modes, like sound test and debug modes.

Overall
This is a very good game. The graphics are nice, the gameplay is spot on, the difficulty is perfect and, well, the idea of playing a new NES game on an actual NES is pretty badass. The controls are quite easy to get used to, though mastering them requires some practice. The password system is short and simple (actually not that hard to “hack” if you really want to), making it easy to start playing from your last save point.

Some people might find it too hard, but I find the game quite lenient if you play on Normal difficulty. I mean, there’s infinite continues, there’s checkpoints everywhere, and when you learn the patterns and timing to pass through each room you can basically breeze through rooms you already beat.

I highly recommend this game to anyone with an NES, or collectors. It might not be the most unique game out there, but it’s a blast to play, and reaching the next save point is always incredibly satisfactory.

Pros and Cons
Pros
– Easy to learn, hard to master
– Very hard game, but never too punishing
– Looks nice
– Good music
– It’s in an NES cartridge, that’s badass
– Will last you a pretty long time

Cons
– Price is a BIT high, especially because of the expensive shipping rates
– No in-game map is a bit annoying, forcing you to draw your own map if you feel the need to have one

The Save Factor
The game can be bought from Retrozone. It costs $30, plus the shipping which is between $9 and $12(for Canada), so around $39 total. For me I feel it was well worth it. Though I feel that the Save Factor for this one would be around $25(+shipping). If it’s put on special, get it, it’s worth every penny.

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Categories: Games, NES, retro, Review
  1. March 15th, 2010 at 22:36 | #1

    Nice! Can’t wait to try it too. 🙂

    Wanna come over tomorrow evening and show me the ropes and see if my NES is able to play it?

  2. March 16th, 2010 at 11:03 | #2

    Yeah, why not?

  3. March 16th, 2010 at 11:21 | #3

    I’ll call you when I leave work.

    I can show you God Hand at the same time.

    Speaking of which, those games I got this weekend for PS2 are all damn hard. DMC1 was brutal and merciless. =( And Triangle for jump.. TRIANGLE FOR JUMP.

  4. Krimstah
    April 29th, 2010 at 00:33 | #4

    Hell yeah defiantly supporting this dude hope to see more games in the future 🙂

    • April 29th, 2010 at 08:38 | #5

      Awesome! And obviously we’re not the only ones supporting him, as the game went out of stock AGAIN, despite being in stock at the beginning of the week. Hopefully he starts working on something new soon 😀

  5. August 24th, 2010 at 22:01 | #6

    This game has been keeping my NES powered nonstop for the past three days, and I JUST got past the Lotus Guardian (normal mode). Hella fun. I feel like I’m 10 years old again!

  6. August 27th, 2010 at 13:32 | #7

    Michale :

    I feel like I’m 10 years old again!

    Yeah, this game does that doesn’t it? 😛

    On another note, a sequel was announced… can’t wait.