If you still have a NES console chances are it’s main fear, as it sits alone in the darkest recesses of your basement collecting dust, is that the next time it sees daylight will be at a garage sale, being offered for a sum so low that a desperate hooker would be insulted. Though the NES glory days may be gone, there is no reason to relegate this once mighty titan to just a fond memory. Through an underground community of dedicated fans, 8 bit games have never truly died. Fan made games, and independently produced titles have been in production for years behind the curtains. The most notable game to crawl its way out of obscurity would of course be Battle Kid: The Fortress of Peril. This is not a reproduction or a run of a game that was never officially licensed, but a brand new homebrew IP designed and produced specifically for use on the NES. Do not confuse this for how we got Mega Man 9 & 10 as downloadable titles for the Wii, PS3, and Xbox; Battle Kid comes in official cartridge format.
Battle Kid plays like the bastard child of Mega Man and I Wanna be the Guy. For those of you who haven’t heard of or played I Wanna be the Guy, know that playing it is more frustratingly painful than having a goat chew on your nuts. Battle Kid isn’t quite as hard, but it’s definitely a challenge. The story is largely irrelevant – has any old school platformer ever had a story that mattered? All you need to know is that there’s some evil guys doing evil and you need to break into their lair, destroy the bosses, and win. That’s all the story we ever needed in the 8 bit days. Your ship lands on the outskirts of the fortress and then you’re on your own, figure it out from there and learn the rules of the game as you play. Like many classic platformers, your skills, reflexes, and patience will all be tested. Expect to throw your controller across the room in a monkey-throwing-feces fit of anger because you will die A LOT. One hit from anything kills you and there’s plenty pitfalls, traps, and tricks to trip you up as well, such as fruit from trees falling UP at you as you jump over them. Checkpoints are few and far between as well, making death all the more unforgiving. There are however multiple difficulty settings along with a password feature. Don’t be fooled though, easy doesn’t necessarily mean easy, just means you have infinite continues. And just forget about unfair mode – no continues and no saves, only one life to complete the whole game – which is impossible unless you’re some teenage Asian kid.
From a development standpoint, this game is the Bret Hart of the video game world. And by that I mean it’s the excellence of execution, not a geriatric, operating in a medium that it’s grown too old for. Controls are tight, accurate, and responsive, which is a requirement of any good platformer. Graphics can seem a bit bland at times, but for the most part there is as wide a variety of colors that the 8 bit palette can muster. Level design is clever and well planned out, offering a lofty challenge but without being too completely unfair. The world is broken down in a Metroidvania style, where instead of defined stages, there is one large seamless map. You are free to explore the areas of the fortress at your leisure, though many areas will be blocked until you obtain the appropriate upgrades after defeating one of the games 8 bosses. My personal favorite aspect of the game is by far the soundtrack. I can only stomach the insane difficulty of the game in small pieces, but the music is always good. 100% authentic, catchy, 8 bit chiptunes, could easily fit into any Mega Man title, and has a quick tempo that perfectly fits the gameplay.
This game is currently available at Retrozone for $30, comes with a full color manual, a dust cover, and should work on any version NES. You can check out a demo of the game in ROM format at the Sivak Games website and also check out the demo of upcoming Battle Kid 2: Mountain of Torment.
Developer: Sivak Games
Release Date: February 22, 2010