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What the heck is on this $10 Retro Game handheld? Let’s find out!

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)


224. FINAL BLOOD

I first thought this was a tank sim, but it seems to be more of a stationary, rotating turret. You turn until you find a tank or truck, and you shoot it to get points. Some things seem to be shooting back, causing your life bar to decrease. There’s also a timer that doesn’t seem to correspond to any real-world measure of time. According to TCRF, this is a Nice Code knockoff of Battlezone which didn’t include being able to move.




225. FIRE DRAGON

This appears to be a palette-swap of Dragon (#208). Research reveals this was likely the original, made by a Chinese publisher called Gamtec, and Dragon was the hack.



226. BURROW EXPLORER

The graphics are surprisingly crisp for a game that takes one of the most annoying features on many jrpgs and makes it the whole game: You need to navigate through a dark maze with only a small circle of light. There are moving guard-creatures you need to avoid and occasional treasure down dead ends. It’s Nice Code, and also known as Angler Fish, Burrow, and Labyrinth.



227. FISH STORY

You’re a big orange fish. You need to catch and eat smaller fish and avoid big ones. The small swordfish give you some kid of timed bonus if you catch three of them; but I’m not really clear on what. This is also Nice Code, and seen elsewhere as Aether Captor and Eating.
 

RT-55J

definitely not a robot
(He/Him)
The score display in Fish Story being a fish skeleton is, uh, certainly a choice someone made.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
But weren't GnG and 1942 way more popular in the arcades?

Also, apparently Exed Exes was released in US arcades as Savage Bees (by a company called Memetron).

Oh, absolutely! GnG and 1942 were bona fide hits. But early on, Capcom didn't have a US distributor, either. Many of their early games were released here by someone else. Romstar did several, but one of the weirdest things to see now is the big DATA EAST logo on original Commando cabinets.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
The score display in Fish Story being a fish skeleton is, uh, certainly a choice someone made.
Touching the big fish turns you into a skeleton! That's the death animation. As opposed to the animation of eating the smaller fish. They went for a certain brand of macabre for this one.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
228. FLAPPY
A third copy of glitchy, unplayable Flappy. (I didn’t bother with a picture this time.)



229. CANNONADE

A Galaga clone: Enemies float down continuously from above and you need to shoot them down. Touch one and you die. Apparently the original Nice Code game was called Astrosmash, which was then hacked to create this.



230. FLING BALL

You and the computer (or potentially a second player) take turns firing balls at a scoreboard. Which picture you hit earns points, but the defending player can block your shots with a robot. Nice Code also sold this one as Doll and Puppet Show.



231. FLIPULL

This is a neat puzzle game that required some figuring out: You’re grabbing tiles from the stack and then trying to fling the grabbed tiles into ones that match them to remove them. You can shoot forward, but also bounce tiles off the far wall to hit downwards. Apparently this is known as Plotting in most markets; I don’t know why because Flipull is much more memorable.



232. FREESTYLE

Hey look, it’s the swimming game, back again with a new stroke!
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)
Yeah, Taito didn't bother to localize it for the NES, probably due to the limit of games they could release. It's a different take on the puzzler, tho.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
Today’s a special edition: Games that somebody really hated!



233. FRIDAYTHE13TH

There’s actually a fair amount of game here and I feel the need to dig out Nintendo Power and find out how to actually play. I was entertained that the Wikipedia article notes, “It is considered by some as one of the worst games of all time.” Because seriously, there’s much worse in the past 232 slots and likely to be more in the back half of this list.

234. DINOSAUR BALE

Super Mario 16! Like everything that involves Dinosaurs, apparently.



235. FRUIT GIFT

Fruit outlines scroll by on the left and right. You need to scroll through your available fruits and swipe them in the appropriate direction when the outline passes. Filling all the fruit outlines gets you to the next level, but the bar at the bottom is a timer. A Nice Code title also called Pattern Maker. (I couldn't find any hateful reviews for this one. It's simple but inoffensive, honestly.)



236. GALG

Vertical-scrolling shooter with a goal of collecting 100 “enemy parts” to destroy the boss. It’s not immediately clear if the level just loops until you get those parts, which seem to be random drop power-ups. (Later research revealed that there are three looping stages and they get harder with every loop.) The full title appears to be Zunou Senkan Galg and Honest Gamers has a review about how much they hate it.



237. GEIMOS

A 3D vertical-scrolling shooter with a strong arcade feel. This includes a “downward shot”, though actually discerning where on the plane any given enemy is (and what’s an enemy versus a bullet) is really hard on a small screen.

TCFR calls this game “An ambitious piece of shameless ripoff that really hurts the eyes.” A review on GameFAQs gets into more depth of why it’s bad.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Friday the 13th isn't good, but personally I'd consider it more along the lines of kusoge than just straight up the worst thing ever. It at least does some interesting stuff, even if it doesn't do it particularly well.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I actually have a copy of Galg in box, mostly because it's such a bizarre game. Collecting the 100 parts takes hours, and that's when you know how to get through the game - it has branching paths which loop back on themselves if you take the wrong one. It has all sorts of hidden, opaque secrets which were common in games of the era (some say they were designed this way in bad faith, with the idea of selling more guidebooks). I've honestly considered buying the original guidebook, just for the weird historicity of it.

Geimos is another one of those early FC shooters which I think a lot of US players first encountered while browsing the full romset. Taken in context of its release date, I think it's perfectly fine. It's got some cool space backgrounds.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Friday the Thirteenth is incredibly ambitious and admittedly a little janky, but not nearly as much as its reputation warrants.

Everyone hating it has always baffled me, and will continue to always baffle me, and I blame Cussing Youtubers for all of it
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
As other folks pointed out earlier, Nice Code's gameplay chops may be basic, but their pixel art continues to be on point. That fish-eat-fish one is particularly pretty for an NES game!
 

Ghost from Spelunker

BAG
(They/Him)
Friday the Thirteenth is incredibly ambitious and admittedly a little janky, but not nearly as much as its reputation warrants.

Everyone hating it has always baffled me, and will continue to always baffle me, and I blame Cussing Youtubers for all of it

I think because it's a licensed game it got way more attention than say, Silkworm. And when this many kids play a game that is more complicated than "run to the right" it's going to confuse a few of them on the way, hence the angry Nintendo nerds.
And don't forget how many rental games didn't even come with instructions.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Friday the 13th came up in another thread recently so, I'll just drop my thoughts from there here:

I'm an apologist for this game. It's not fantastic, but it's better than it gets credit for, and if you don't mind using a walkthrough to find one or two of the better items/weapons, it's pretty fun (but short). If you want a non-swearing YouTuber take, I talked about it for Halloween in 2017 (also featuring Kim Justice explaining the microcomputer version). As I mention in my video, one of my favorite things is how little most of the swearing YouTubers seem to have just lifted from James Rolfe when they swear about it, too, because they all mention the same handful of gripes and never talk about perfectly legit gripes like "you can't attack while jumping" and "Jason in the lake is bullshit because there's no way to avoid him." It's all just "lol, no characters from the movies, and the map doesn't work the way I want it to, even though it's not actually hard to get how the map works at all!"



Elm St. is eminently more playable than Friday. It also has a fantastic David Wise soundtrack and is, notably, the only 4-player side-scroller on the NES. (The four-player is maybe a bit too chaotic to be fun, though.)
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)


238. GHOST CASTLE

Van Helsing needs to shoot up or down at the ghosts, bullet-dropping vampires and ladies in red dresses that rush back and forth. Killing enough gets you to the next level. This is a Nice Code hack of the first level of the Atari game Saboteur. (Apparently they also hacked that into Clown's Mission and Hell.) You may recall that the other half of Saboteur was hacked to make Contest (#193).



239. GIABBIT

An SMB hack called “Hanshin Tigers Giabbit Hunting.” It’s quirky. There are poison mushrooms, stars replace coins, every enemy you kill with a fireball gives you a 1up, the stage is VERY long, and I’m not quite sure what the goal is. The hack page gives no information at all about what the hell’s going on here. I found a Youtube video of someone playing it to apparent completion, including the long secret area and inexplicable “bad ending”.



240. CARE BEAR


Candy, umbrellas and stars drop from above and you need to catch them. Just watch out for pineapples, because those bonk you and make you lose a life. This is apparently a clone of Kaboom! for Atari 2600, which Nice Code released as Mad Xmas, Angel, Dinosaur, Lucky Time, and Santa Claus.



241. GOLDEN BIRD

The evil combs are after you and you need to avoid them by going up and down ladders and freeing all the birds from the jail cells as you pass. It’s like Donkey Kong without being able to jump. Also by Nice Code.



242. GOODHAND

A runner-style motorcycle game where you can jump between several levels of paths. It appears there are things you can shoot and pick up, but some of the enemies you can bump away and some just kill you, and I couldn’t figure out how to distinguish them. Also, I don’t understand the name. This seems to be a hack of the game City Connection (released in NA as Cruisin').
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Which I am surprised we haven't seen show up yet; City Connection was another one of those games that was a mainstay in multicarts, wasn't it?
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I don't have much to add to this batch of oddball games, except that City Connection is one of those not-especially-notable NES games which has grown on me. Part of it is because I love the Honda City Turbo, but part of it is just because I love the banana-yellow FC cart and the adorable artwork which is on both the FC and the NES versions.

 
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