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Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril

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

Publisher: Retrozone

Release Date: February 22, 2010


I Wanna Be The Guy

Issue #1

For my first official game review on this blog, I’ll be talking about one of the most infamous indie games out there. Those of you who haven’t heard of I Wanna be the Guy yet, it was created by a complete sadist, Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly, in 2007, and it is perhaps the hardest game I have ever played. No, strike that. It’s DEFINITELY the hardest game I’ve ever played. Just saying that phrase, the hardest, doesn’t even really give you the scope of its complete and unrelenting evilness. It is the epitome of unfair. I am reminded of Street Fighter II, fighting M. Bison for the first time, and complaining that the computer cheats. That pales in comparison to the defeated, quivering, lump of fail that IWTBG leaves in its wake. Be careful not to use a control pad to play this game or it will, with utmost certainty, get thrown across the room in anger. Mainly because IWBTG breaks all conventions that have been by now practically hard wired into us by classic platforming games. Oh look, there’s a ledge I can jump onto for safety. NOPE! IT WAS A TRICK! Oh and what about the fruit in the tree? It’s gonna fall on me, better jump over it. WRONG AGAIN! They fall UP too! This game’s not fun and for those who think it is, they have a serious masochistic streak that probably requires professional treatment. It’s kind of like Two Girls One Cup in that you don’t really enjoy watching it (please say you don’t really enjoy it), but you’ll make your friends play it so you can behold the horror on their faces.

Ok, so maybe that all sounds entirely too hyperbolic for some of you or maybe even like I’m whining, but I do in fact enjoy games with a challenge;  this game is just completely out of control. Now I come from a generation when video games were more about skill, when storylines and graphics were generally not even considered. The deepest plot of my youth was, “But our princess is in another castle.” So when they start you off in this game, absent of directions or hints of any kind, it was nothing new to me. Usually games like this still follow similar patterns and even if you’ve never played it before, you can still usually get the hang of it in a few moments. Then IWBTG comes along and gives you, and what you think about platformers, the big ol’ middle finger.  At the very beginning you start, much like many other platformers, standing on the left side of the screen facing towards the right.  I spent about 20 minutes trying to go this direction only to figure out that no matter what you try, it’s the wrong direction. It leads to certain doom.  One of three spiked walls come slamming out of nowhere and after finally successfully navigating those, the floor below is littered with spikes with NO WAY IN HELL to get to the only safe looking ledge in the room. Then, only due to jumping relentlessly out of frustration, I jumped up the hole which I initially fell through to start the game, and there’s a whole different direction to go! It’s all bright and happy looking, with trees and fruit. With untold elation, my smiling Kid joyfully plodded his way again towards the right and DEAD, another splatterization caused by the unassuming fruit. I was furious, but the curiosity caused by discovering the new room would not allow me to quit yet. After a few more tries I got past the fruit and was about to loop back around, onto the ledges above, towards what would appear now as an easy victory to the next screen, but no. The fruit came right off the tree and flew UP at me.  Eff that game, I was done.  And that was only the beginning few screens of the game.

There are 4 difficulty settings with the default setting as HARD. You can then pick between medium, very hard, or impossible, though they don’t give you an easy setting. And don’t start thinking that medium is easy, it’s still just as unforgiving and no matter what difficulty you pick, if you get hit even just once, even the slightest little tap, you’re dead. Additionally, if you do try on medium, they taunt you by putting a pink bow on your sprite. The only redeeming  quality this game has is that you can hit ‘R’ at any point to retry and the reload is instantaneous. Though you may have to go back quite a ways and redo some stroke-inducing series of jumps. On impossible they don’t even offer this nicety though. Just one death and that’s it, it’s over.

This may all seem like a negative review, but I assure you it’s not. On some level, I am quite fond of this game. I mean it’s better than cutting yourself right? It plays very well for a game controlled by a keyboard. The controls are quick and responsive, the movements are very precise, and there’s no momentum on the character from jumping so you don’t slide around when you actually do land safely somewhere. And of course there’s the obligatory double-jump, which is imperative to your survival. IWBTG plays up some fan service to various classics, including Punch-Out!!, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Mega Man, and Zelda just to name a few. It’s worth playing through just to see how these get introduced throughout the game.

I definitely think it’s more fun to watch someone else shorten their lifespan with IWBTG than to actually play myself. Because you can find anything on YouTube, there’s a video of someone doing a complete run of the game in five parts. I’m disgusted with these videos though because of how easy it makes it look. You may not even want to play after watching and seeing some of the bullcrap the game throws at you. The first of the five videos is posted below and should link to the others.

Seriously though, if you enjoy a good challenge, or you want to irritate your friends and make them play it, download I Wanna Be The Guy. You can check out the official page of I Wanna Be The Guy below. The download is free, and they do welcome donations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you agree/disagree with me about anything, please feel free to leave a comment. I’m very welcoming to harassment. And if you haven’t checked out my trip to E3, it’s under the uncategorized section.

Thanks for reading!

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