One of the biggest problems with aiming to collect as many decent games as possible is that some of the really good ones are priced to silly levels. Having recently gone down the Famicom collecting route my wallet was feeling a little sparse this month so in a bid to save some money I posted a message on the Retro Gamer forums asking for NES games in trades for older issues of the magazine. Quite a few people responded and before long I had another pile of (what I hoped were) good games. Ikari Warriors was one of the first games to arrive and actually came in a decent looking box. A quick view on eBay showed it to be quite valuable often hitting the £10 mark for a boxed game with manual so overall not a bad swap for just one issues of RG.
Released by SNK in 1986 Ikari Warriors is an arcade port of the same game. One of my main reasons for trading was a vague memory of playing the arcade game down at the local swimming pool many moons ago. So with this in mind I gave the cart a good clean before slotting it in the console. The first thing I was faced with was a black screen with the game title plastered across with two.....Rambo rip offs (I honestly don’t know what else to call them, both are wearing head bands, one is even red and neither has a shirt on) walk to the middle and begin firing in a circle. Welcome to the gung ho 80’s I guess? You are then treated to a plane crashing in the jungle and our Rambo rip off climbing free. The music for this whole affair is average to say the least.
Usually when I play a NES game for the first time I’m determined to spend a good hour or so working through no matter how bad it seems. However even I had an almost overpowering urge to put the pad down after just a few minutes play. You character moves in a very slow manner with the enemies seeming to be a step or two faster. Being a Space Invaders on wheels type game you would think that the player would need to be quick and nimble but it all feel’s incredibly difficult, much more so than it should be. You start with grenades and a pistol which doesn’t seem enough when you are facing off hundreds of enemies. At least you can hide behind rocks and buildings which you will need to do quite often as one hit kills you. It’s a scrolling shooter from the early days of the NES so I guess you can’t really expect much and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of you decided to stop reading.....But then you find the tank.
A small cube on wheels with a rotating gun, missiles, crummy looking but impervious to several rounds of enemy fire, this cute little box changes the whole feel of the game. Once inside the tank controls in the same way as the main player except this time you have powerful weapons and can survive several attacks but its main bonus is the speed. The tank can drive all over the screen several times faster than on foot and it actually injects some much needed fun into the game. Travelling up screen you often come across gun turrets and stationary tanks but none can stand up to the power of tank Rambo. The game constantly throws enemies at you, the majority are soldiers but when they can come from any direction you always need to stay on your toes. One thing I’m not sure about is the controls the main character can fire diagonally but it feels awkward having to do it on the move with a NES pad. I think I need to get my hands on a NES Advantage joystick before I can comment further.
Rose tinted glasses and nostalgia can often make you remember funny things about games so I decided to have a look around YouTube at the original arcade game to give me an idea of how the NES conversion compares. It’s surprising just how well the NES can mimic the graphics with everything being in a similar location and despite the low colour ability it does a great job even keeping the opening plane crash in tact. The arcade game has a lot more enemies on screen at any one time and moves a lot faster than the NES counterpart but that’s only to be expected.
I’m still not sure what to make about the game. On one hand once I was driving that tank the game seemed to change completely and became a pretty good jungle romp but on the other those walking sections are a bit dire with the tank not appearing as often as I would hope. I have no idea why this sells for so much on eBay and I can only recommend you pick it up if you see it cheap.