In 1991 when G.I. Joe A Real American Hero was released for the Nintendo I had grown out of G.I. Joe. Getting G.I. Joe toys for Christmas was no longer the cool or hip thing, as I unfortunately found out. Being both fan and collector I found it tough to move on to what everyone else found socially acceptable, music. Fortunately for me I quickly discovered that girls were into music and the bridge was very easy to cross. The one thing that was socially acceptable among young men was playing video games, which has endured. G.I. Joe had long moved past the Joes we all knew and loved. New characters and bizarre vehicles had taken over the tried and trusted Joes of the past. Even General Hawk looked more like the Rocketeer than a foot solider in today’s army, a fact that I was reminded of when I popped in the old NES G.I. Joe game. I clearly remember Duke, Snake Eyes, Rock n Roll (despite his new look) but who is Blizzard and Captain Grid-Iron? Regardless, this was my team of Joes and I had a date with destiny as I took on the forces of Cobra for the first time in a very long while.
The graphics were cutting edge for the day but by today’s standards are, at times, blurry to say the least. Many of us are used to graphics defining characters so that we are able to tell who they are. Obviously anyone shooting at you is a bad guy but here Cobra Vipers, Cobra Tele-Vipers and Cobra-La guards are only distinguishable by their color schemes and weapons. The music is simple and repeats but what game from this era didn’t do that?
I’ll admit that I went right for the Game Genie to cut through all the crap and beat this game real quick. Well Cobra Commander, who I believe made this game, wasn’t having anything of it. To use any of the Game Genie cheats only hindered my overall team performance. Sure I could jump further and my stamina could be increased but I still died just the same. Plus I immediately lost a member of my squad. Each level has a pre-determined team leader. Blizzard for the snow levels, etc. but I picked who the other two Joes were. Game Genie allowed only the squad leader and one other Joe. This reduced the amount of lives I would have.
The early levels are fairly simple and you scroll left to right dodging Cobra’s soldiers and their various weaponry. This is a game in which you have to be careful and not journey backwards too far when trying to pick up power-ups (improve your weapon) and K-rations (recovers energy). Each enemy solider I took care of immediately returned to his start point more pissed off than before. Time after time each failed jump re-spawned the bad guys ready to kill my ass over and over again. Another great kicker is my gun could not shoot through the floor or the walls, however many of the Cobra soldiers had hand held heat seeking rockets that screwed me over time and time again.
There are six levels in the game many of which have multiple sub levels. General Hawk has a mission briefing for each level that is better animated than the Wolverine game for the NES (see retro review). Cobra Commander, who looks a lot more like Darkseid, and his cronies taunt you as well each time you fail. The later levels rival G.I.Joe’s comic book headquarters, The Pitt, with their vastness and size. There is little direction in which way to go as you try and plant bombs that will destroy each Cobra facility.
The final boss for the game is Cobra Commander. However much like the cartoon, outside of Destro, many of the other bosses are an odd collection of crazy vehicles and lame henchmen. Anyone one remember Cobra’s falconer, Raptor? You’ll laugh as you kick his ass. The majority of the time you’ll battle Cobra’s eccentric collection of vehicles. Remember, as it is with any old school Nintendo game, look for the pattern and you’ll defeat the boss in no time.
Surprisingly enough I had a lot of difficulty playing this game and through my frustration I started to realize how much fun it was. It was a challenge to master straight upward jumps on a wall. Ninja Gaiden was a walk in the park compared to navigating Captain Grid-Iron up a wall with a heat seeking missiles breathing down my neck. G.I. Joe is still a challenge and not something you can easily breeze through. Sure today we have the internet which supplies us with maps and cheats but back in the day all we had were our wits and maybe a hand drawn map. Take the challenge this game offers. Keep the internet off and plop yourself down in front of the TV and plug in that old system. The new G.I. Joe movie may not be all that it should be but this game certainly is. Yo Joe!
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