Wednesday, 27 March 2013

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (NES)

G.I. Joe NES title screen
Wow, you sure you've squeezed enough text on that title screen there? I'll admit right now that everything I know about G.I. Joe comes from the 2009 film, but I'm pretty sure this isn't the insanely cheesy theme from the TV series playing in the background right now. It's a catchy tune though.

I wish I could say I played this game because of the request I got on twitter, but the truth is that I originally wrote this post in April 2012 so that I'd have it ready to put it up on the site in time for the cinema release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Unfortunately for me it seems that Paramount realised at the last minute that killing off a popular character at the beginning of the movie was probably a bad idea and delayed the film by a year for reshoots, ruining all my plans in the process. The bastards. I didn't think there was any rush in showing off what I thought of a 1991 NES game though, so I held onto this until today, when the time was finally right.

Just for a change I thought I'd choose PASSWORD instead of NEW GAME and was rewarded with a picture of a space shuttle for some reason. Now it's got me wondering though if the shuttle takes off if you enter the correct code.

Shockingly 123456789 isn't recognised as a password, so I'm left with no other recourse but to start a new game after all.

Whoa, now I'm getting Zero Wing flashbacks. This guy must be serious business if just showing his face on TV is enough to set off both the 'ALART' and the 'ARART' warning signs.

Actually this turns out to be our boss with another dangerous assignment for me. He's getting a bit sick of the Cobra organisation terrorising the good folks of the free world and it's time for a Real American Hero to go sort it out. My first stop on my anti-terrorism world tour will be a "jungle base deep in the Amazon."

The mission leader will be Duke (armed with a 'ring laser rifle' and a 'front punch' apparently), but I get to pick the rest of my team myself.

Blizzard is armed with a flame ball repeater XJ-29F and carries a dagger, but he's not coming on my team until he agrees to take those damn skis off.

It says in the character profiles that Snake Eyes doesn't carry a gun, instead he prefers to use his JITSU OF POWER. That sounds a bit too much like ninja magic to me, but he's the only one I remember from the movie, so he's on the team.

Captain Grid-Iron is apparently obsessed with American Football, to the point of carrying a 'football grenade launcher' as his gun and wearing that helmet into battle. I bet he's not even a real captain.

But that's just the kind of batshit insane fanaticism I'm going to need out there in the field. Congrats Grid-Iron, you've made the team.

On the other hand this guy carries a double barrelled sniper gatling gun IN EACH HAND, wears a hat just to give himself an extra place to carry bullets, and is equipped with a military-grade beard. In fact he sounds absolutely perfect for my special ops team... but I already promised Grid-Iron the second slot. Sorry mate.

Whoa, this actually looks really good for a NES game, with lots of animation on screen. The music ain't bad either. This is exactly what I want my 8-bit games to sound like in fact.

Okay this seems to be a straightforward side-scrolling run and gun, and I can switch between using my fists or firepower to inflict hurt. Guns have more range (like, duh), but they have limited ammo, and it seems like my fists have more power. Because I've been working out.

Holy shit, my guy can jump! He nearly reached that gun power-up floating up there in a single mighty leap. Though if I can't reach it by jumping, how am I supposed to get it?

Aha, I thought I remembered seeing 'jump' as one of the attributes on the character select screen. It seems I can switch between my characters at any time during the level and each has their own health bar and stats.

Amazingly Snake Eyes can actually jump higher than Duke and was able to grab the pickup easily.

Hey, Snake Eyes really does fire off hadoukens with his ninja magic instead of using a gun (and has infinite ammo too!) Though you can't really see it clearly in this shot because the designers thought it'd be fun to obscure chunks of the playfield with trees. That's just bad design in my opinion.

Though it was bad game playing that got my poor ninja down to less than half his health so fast. Fortunately enemies actually drop health pick-ups in this. Well some of them do anyway and the health kits do like to bounce so I gotta chase 'em first.

Damn, they put a boss fight on the very first level? I've only been playing for a little over three minutes and I'm already taking on a fighter jet in hand to hand combat.

Oh shit, I've been playing for three minutes? That only leaves me with 7 seconds to kill this thing!

Well, fuck.

Fortunately I've got a continue! Possibly even infinite continues, though I'm not getting my hopes up. Not that it matters much now, as I'm going back to the start of level one either way.

I don't know who this guy is, but I like how he seems as confused about what he's holding there as I am. Those flames he's standing in front of makes me think it could be a flamethrower, but then he's got those bullets draped over him so maybe it's a belt-fed machine gun. Or maybe he's just a cranky old cyborg waving his high-tech walking stick at me.

Damn, when they said this was a 'ring laser rifle', they really meant it. Hey if Star Wars can have laser swords, then this can have laser... doughnuts. I've got 84 seconds left on the clock so I'm pretty sure I can take him this time. I just gotta remember to always jump the missiles before opening fire when he pops on screen.


Oh shit, exploding just made the thing mad! Amazingly the aircraft is still flightworthy and much faster with without all that cockpit crap at the front slowing it down.

I gave up trying to dodge it in the end and just hammed the ring laser button until it exploded again. Properly this time.


But then the next level turned out to be a non-linear platformer maze. This reminds me a bit of the Captain America and the Avengers platformer on the NES actually, but I think this is the better game. It's slicker for certain.

Thankfully that water down there isn't instakill, but I've been getting my ass kicked seventeen other ways so that health over there by the door will be useful. The enemies respawn, but it's rare that they drop health kits so I can't just clear out an area of easy enemies a few times to refill my life if I get in trouble.

Huh, when I jumped past the tick on the wall, Duke stuck a radio on it. Oh right, we came here to blow this place up didn't we? I guess that explains the level timer then, they must have started the clock on the bombs before they left. Just to make things interesting.

Well that's one bomb down now and I have 340 seconds to find the other tick and get back to this exit door so I can leave.


Huh, another boss battle already? It seems I have to fight one at the end of every stage and this one likes to destroy the floor then knock me down into the hole. I've been switching characters when their health ran low, but switching won't save me from a bottomless pit. Why didn't any of my guys think of bringing a jetpack?

Tactics failure. Well that's one way to put it.

I had to continue from the start of stage two, and when I reached the boss again this time I used the more successful tactic of jumping up and punching him to death.


And then it's another short run to the right (with a few ledges this time), as I race to escape the blast radius.

Yeah, I'm starting to think that punching is the answer to 90% of boss related problems. This guy made the mistake of bringing a gun to a fist fight and went down in about 12 seconds of sustained pummelling. Then I swiftly exfiltrated the mission area just as a huge explosion put a smoking crater where the jungle used to be. That sorted out those nasty terrorists.

Wow Duke's reward for total success is a demotion? Well I suppose Blizzard is actually a better choice to be the leader of a mission in snowy Antarctica. I mean he's got his own skis and everything.


Hey, Blizzard isn't even wearing skis! What's up with that?

These Cobra people really are psychopaths. They're firing missiles down onto their own men to try to kill me. Fortunately I've been putting each of the guards down humanely with a swift dagger to the throat, so when the blast reached them they didn't feel a thing.

This seems to be following the same pattern as the last mission. The first stage is a straight run to the target, then there's the boss (who I punch to death). Next is probably another bomb maze platforming level (and a boss fight), then the straightforward escape level. With another boss fight.


Man, you'd think I'd be better at jumping between conveyor belts by now, considering how many games I've had to do this in.

Yep, three bombs to plant on this level. I just wish whoever spray painted the ticks on the wall had also given me a map telling me where to find them, because I hate wandering around lost, especially when I have a time limit.

This game can be a real bastard sometimes. I was sure I'd be able to get to that tick if I hijacked one of these mini-helicopters, but nope.

Now I've only got one guy in my squad left alive and a fraction of a health bar remaining. Still, on the bright side, I hijacked one of these helicopters! I'm going to go fly around and shoot people for a bit and hopefully find the other tick along the way.


Come and get some grenades you wall-hugging sons of bitches. I've got (potentially) infinite of them! Grenades for everyone!

I had to replay that other level in the end, after another 'tactics failure', but I'm doing better this time around. Turns out I had to walk through a secret passage under the floor to plant the last bomb next to the exit door. Secret passages and time limits, what an awesome combination.


Cool, I turned left at the start of this escape stage and found one of those wall climbing vehicles from the last boss fight left open, with the keys in the ignition. I'm taking this thing, and I'm going to roll all the way to the exit on the ceiling.

Then I ended up driving the thing straight into the very first hole I found and had to start the level again. Next time around I went back for the vehicle and ended up falling into the second hole and then on my next go I managed to make it across, only for an enemy to knock me back in. On the next run I managed to get knocked out of the vehicle but landed safely on a ledge... and then I got knocked down the bloody hole again.

I'm not liking this level much to be honest.

Yeah, well you should have... shut up!

Right I'm starting the stage again, and I'm going to leave the wall climber behind, and I'm going to walk the whole way on foot, and I'm going to punch all your goons, and then I'm going to punch that goatee off your smug face. What do you say about that mate?

11 seconds.

Oh no no no, don't go down there Snake Eyes! That's the sewers mate, you're not going to find a secret Cobra base down there, and even if you did I doubt the city would appreciate you blowing it up.


Well here I am in the creepy sewers then. Yay.

This place earns extra creepy points for having decorative skulls along the girders. Fortunately I'm taking the express elevator down, so I'll be done with this place soon enough.


Snake finally gets to indulge in a little Ninja Gaiden style wall grabbing on these rough brick walls, though he'll be disappointed when he finds out that Blizzard and Grid-Iron can do it just as well as he can.

Well there's the third tick, but how the hell do I get down there? Oh bollocks to it, I can't be arsed stumbling through this maze anymore. Maybe if they'd added some kind of map I would have had more patience for it, but this is just driving me to despair right now.

But there's one last thing I've got to try before I turn the game off...

Hey, the shuttle DOES take off if you put a legit password in! I'm finally ready to take on space terrorism.

G.I. Joe is actually a surprisingly decent game I reckon, for what it is. It's nothing that interesting and I could live without playing another timed maze level in a video game ever again, but it's a solid platformer and the music's good. Annoyingly it's gotten that dopey cartoon theme playing in my head instead though. And now I have to live with that.


  1. Thanks for the review!

    I don't remember if I ever played this game back in the day, but it looks decent. I may have to try to scare up a copy sometime this year if it's not too expensive.

  2. "Why didn't any of my guys think of bringing a jetpack?" That's funny, in the last level you play as the boss guy and he has a sweet jetpack. Anyway nice review happy passover and so on.


Semi-Random Game Box