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Kid Icarus

光神話 パルテナの鏡

Developer / Publisher: Nintendo
19 December 1986
Kid Icarus [光神話 パルテナの鏡] - cover art
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2.68 / 5.0
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251 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#4,211 All-time
#27 for 1986
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1986 Nintendo  
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JP 4 902370 500431 FMC-PTM
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US 0 45496 63035 5 NES-KI-USA
1991 Nintendo TOSE  
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ES 0 45496 63035 5 NES-KI-ESP
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光神話 パルテナの鏡 ファミコンミニ
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2007 Nintendo  
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2007 Nintendo  
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2012 Arika Nintendo  
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Title
This is a unique old action-platforming game with four main levels. The first three each contain three platforming stages and then a complex platforming dungeon. Interesting concept, kind of like an extension of Super Mario Bros. The platforming stages are more "standard" but utilize unique (for its day) concepts like screenwrap and vertically-oriented level design, and are abound with items to purchase in upgrade shops. They're kinda hard, but it's an old game, so that's par for the course. Curiously, the difficulty level goes down as you progress, but that's an interesting and unique trick too; using the game's difficulty as a metaphor for Pit ascending out of the underworld to take to the skies and battle Medusa.

The dungeons resemble the winding platforming corridors of the then-recent Metroid. However, these are the worst part of the game. You have to find the map, which is fine, but then you have to buy two separate upgrades to both see where you are in the dungeon and map out where you've actually gone. Considering how many rooms they have, this is pretty tedious! At least make it so that I only need to buy one map upgrade to make it actually useful. There is a really cool mechanic where you have to use the mallets you've collected throughout the game to break Centurion statues and restore them to life, and then they help you battle the boss! But the mallets are kind of scarce, so this is difficult to have much fun with.

There's just a ton of little annoyances that make this game not very fun for me. Items in shops are often pretty expensive unless you spend time grinding out hearts, but who wants to grind for currency in an action game? That's a serious problem considering you'll want a lot of healing items as this game isn't exactly easy! The difficulty isn't helped by the fact that your health isn't restored when going between stages of levels. Also, you can get upgrades that require you to have three full bars of health...before you even have access to three bars of health. Way to waste my time getting them. The controls also feel a bit imprecise, leading to some annoying deaths.

The final level is a flying shoot-em-up, which is a nice change of pace, and a great way to cap off Pit's ascension. What game about an angel would be complete without you decked out in righteous gear, flying around and shooting a giant monster in the eye with a sacred bow? The controls could be better for this part, but I do still think it's a neat idea at least.

But overall, I'm just not feeling this one. I don't like to consider games "obsolete" but this is one I think didn't age well. It's just too frustrating for my tastes. The music and original setting are nice at least, but it's a Nintendo-developed game, so those are to be expected. At least the distant 3DS sequel is amazing.
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SemtexRevolution 2019-11-22T02:42:03Z
2019-11-22T02:42:03Z
2.5
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Don't have much to say here other than I think this game's difficulty curve is counterintuitive to what a difficulty curve should be. The game should not be straight up hard and then get easier and easier to the final boss fight, the by far easiest thing you do in the game. I don't know I just don't think this sort of curve is satisfying for anyone, not to the people who give up on the game because it's too hard to get into, nor the people who stuck around and inevitably be underwhelmed by the end of it. Otherwise, I didn't really enjoy this game. It is sort of deep for an NES game with things like hammers to recruit centurions for a bossfight and different upgrades that occur based on how you complete levels but hardly any of that matters to me because of the bad difficulty curve and the controls being... not great though not awful.
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Sothras 2024-01-02T22:39:42Z
2024-01-02T22:39:42Z
1.5
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Kid Icarus Review - January 2024
After Nintendo's success with the Famicom and their 1983 smash hit Super Mario Bros, the company started developing an add-on peripheral for the console that could expand its capabilities to be more in line with PCs at the time. In early 1986, Nintendo released the Famicom Disk System, an add-on that allowed the system to play special versions of Famicom games on floppy disks, which were not only cheaper to produce but came with an increase in storage capacity. Nowadays it's common for consoles to have mid-cycle refreshes (Nintendo did it numerous times with their DS line of handhelds), but with console gaming being in its primitive years, the Disk System ushered in the next phase of Nintendo games. The Legend of Zelda was a launch title for the Famicom Disk System, showcasing (at least for the time) a massive open world and expansive dungeons to explore, and to top it all off the Disk System could save player information even after the console was turned off. The lack of a proper saving mechanic and storage constraints made original titles for the NES and Famicom very arcade-like, with some of the biggest hits on the console being direct arcade ports like Donkey Kong as they didn't require any saving or expansive storage – Zelda changed all of that, and 1986 would go on to have two more Disk System releases taking advantage of their hardware.

August 1986 would see the release of Metroid on the Famicom Disk System, which featured the same kind of expansive labyrinths and non-linearity fans of Zelda had come to expect, but now in the form of a 2D platformer and a heavy reliance of finding and using power-ups to progress the player through the game. Metroid was such a revolutionary game that it pioneered its own genre, the Metroidvania, which continues to be a massively popular genre to this day. Kid Icarus would be the last game to release for the Famicom Disk System in 1986, and has always been viewed by the gaming community as the ugly duckling of the three games. It wasn't much of a surprise to learn that based on the game's development, Kid Icarus probably wasn't Nintendo's most passionate project. Most of Kid Icarus was developed as a solo project led by Toru Osawa, which was his debut project as a game designer. Starting work on his own game after only two years working at Nintendo, Osawa describes the opportunity to work on Kid Icarus as "right place, right time", as he probably wouldn't have gotten the opportunity if Nintendo wasn't really pushing to release games for the new Disk System. With a strict December deadline from Nintendo, Osawa realized he'd gotten in over his head with Kid Icarus – the level/world count had to be cut down, he had to recruit the help of third-party developer Intelligent Systems and the team behind Metroid after their game had released, and to top it off, Osawa had been married and given a 3-day honeymoon only to be called back into the office on the second day. After months of pulling all-nighters, sleeping in makeshift futons made out of cardboard boxes and curtains from the windows (which Nintendo emphasized is NOT the norm in the company's modern day), Kid Icarus was released for the Famicom Disk System in December 1986. The game was finalized just three days before it shipped, again with the quick burning capabilities of the floppy disk to thank.

Kid Icarus takes place in Angel Land, which heavily borrows from Greek mythology. The game centers around two rulers: Palutena, the goddess of light and heavily based around the goddess Athena, and Medusa, the goddess of darkness. Palutena gets angry at Medusa and banishes her to the Underworld, which pisses Medusa off, so she works with the other demons of the underworld to plan a surprise attack and overthrow Palutena in her Palace in the Sky. Successfully doing so, Medusa steals three sacred treasures – the Mirror Shield, the Light Arrows, and the Wings of Pegasus – which basically renders Palutena's army powerless. With her last bit of strength, Palutena sends a bow and arrow to a young angel, Pit, in hopes to be saved. I wouldn't say the story's anything groundbreaking, but considering most titles at the time surrounded around "the princess got captured, go save her" I can at least applaud this game for trying to create a little backstory and world-building.

Kid Icarus is a game that expects the player to learn and master its mechanics. Anyone who picks up and plays the game with no prior knowledge probably won't make it past the first level – Pit starts with barely any health, no hearts (in-game currency) to buy items, and the levels vertically scroll, with any fall below the screen resulting in a game over.
Skimming through a guide and creating a roadmap of what I wanted to accomplish in each level turned Kid Icarus into a digestible game that I wanted to master every mechanic of. While the game doesn't ever explain it to you, Kid Icarus has an RPG-esque progression system that is essential to understanding in the later levels. There are two different score metrics – the visible "Score" counter seen on the pause screen and at the end of every level, which allows Pit to gain new health upgrades when he hits new score thresholds, and a hidden metric fans have dubbed "skill" which determines if Pit has earned strength upgrades on a given level. Skill is essentially a summation of Pit's stats for the given stage he's on – for example, Pit will get +500 skill every time he collects a big heart and +500 skill for defeating the enemy that dropped it, but he'll lose 10 skill for every arrow he shoots and 300 skill every time he gets hit by an enemy. If Pit is on a stage that includes a strength upgrade room, he'll have to walk in with 10,000 skill to obtain it – otherwise, when he walks in the room will be empty and he won't get the upgrade. The "roadmap" I made for myself when playing Kid Icarus included every stage that included strength upgrade rooms so I'd make sure to kill all of the enemies I'd come across on those stages, maps to all three dungeons, and a cheat sheet for how to game the system in every Treasure Chamber (these bonus rooms are supposed to be chance games where Pit tries to shoot as many item-filled pitchers before he unveils a Ghost of Poverty, but fans have discovered tricks to unveil all the treasure every time, which ensures Pit will find expensive items every time he enters a chamber). Farming for score to get health upgrades in the first world is encouraged as you can already have max health by the second world, making the rest of the game vastly easier and more enjoyable.

As with any good RPG, the choice of what attributes to work on upgrading when is left to the player. Trying to upgrade your attributes is easily the most effective way to play, but the game seems to want the player to try different strategies through its multiple endings mechanic – the ending that you get is dependent on points: a point will be earned if Pit ends the game with maximum hearts, a maximum health bar, maximum weapon upgrades, and/or maximum strength. Where Metroid's ending was determined on how long it took for the player to beat the game, Kid Icarus's ending is based on how many of these points you rack up, with all four points netting you the best ending.
Game mechanics aside, It's nice to see Kid Icarus didn't take itself very seriously. The "Eggplant curse" will forever be as funny as it is outrageous, there is no in-game explanation for why flying Groucho Marx-esque Specknose enemies exist amongst the rest of the similar-looking enemies, and there's no reason why Metroids should be in a game about Greek mythology other than there obviously being time constraints in making the enemy designs. My only guess is Osawa realized how absurd it was that he was making a headline game for the world's most popular console just two years into his career at Nintendo, and channeled that absurdity into the game.

Kid Icarus definitely isn't without its faults, though. If you take your time upgrading in the first world, you can easily beat the remaining 9 levels in one sitting – maybe in about an hour or two's time. While on one hand it's nice that the team didn't bloat the game out with time-consuming filler, Kid Icarus is just too short to deliver anything groundbreaking or all that unique in the realm of 2D platformers. It's also worth noting even with maximum upgrades, the game has that same level of NES bullshit in line with Battletoads or other games of the era, most notably with the Eggplant Wizards and the Plutons. The novelty of the existence of an Eggplant Wizard wears off pretty quick when you get hit by him in a fortress – Pit is no longer able to attack enemies until he finds a hospital room, which can sometimes be pretty far away. The Wizards are only mildly frustrating when compared to the Plutons, which are these little ogres that steal one of your weapons earned in Challenge Rooms every time you get hit by one. A swarm can take all three of your weapons in a matter of seconds, and most weapons are well over 500 hearts a piece to get back, so your only choices are to do some serious grinding after getting hit by them, or starting the level over outright. These enemies suck to deal with in the moment, but at the same time they add a kind of tension to the game that you rarely feel in modern games, which I have to give Kid Icarus credit for.

I think a reason why I enjoyed playing through Kid Icarus this time around is because it gave me so much trouble as a kid. The 3D Classics version of this game was one of the first titles I picked up on the 3DS eShop, and I don't think I even managed to get past the first level. I'd usually get to a tough platforming part, screw it up, get sent back to the beginning of the stage (erasing minutes of my progress), and just quit out and play something else. There are a lot of games out there (especially RPGs) where I think the majority of the enjoyment comes from learning the in's and out's of the game's mechanics, and Kid Icarus is no exception – it's really satisfying to plow through a game that I had previously deemed impossible in a matter of hours. Speaking of the 3D Classics version, the 3DS remake of Kid Icarus is by far the definitive way to play the game. It copies over the Famicom Disk System saving mechanic of the game (so you don't have to deal with the dumbass NES password system), and you get these gorgeous 3D sprite backdrops that represent your progress as you climb from the Underworld to the Skyworld. The original version of the game mostly just had all black or all blue backgrounds for each level, so this really is a game changer – the spritework on the World 2 backgrounds especially might be some of the best uses of 3D on the whole system. The only downside to the 3DS version is the SFX is especially harsh for some reason when you're playing with headphones – the only way to avoid a migraine when playing is to play the volume really soft, or use the 3DS speakers. This is a small nitpick in the grand scheme of things, as you shouldn't be expecting a symphonic orchestra when playing NES titles anyways.

Kid Icarus doesn't have a fraction of the influence that Zelda and Metroid have in the gaming world, but that doesn't stop it from being an immensely enjoyable game to return to. Creating my roadmap to beat this game was one of the more entertaining things I've done in a while in a game, and I imagine it was the same type of feeling 80's kids had when trying to create maps of Zelda's overworlds or sharing secrets they'd found with their friends. With a tighter development team and more flexible schedule I have no doubt we'd be seeing Pit as a gaming legend by now, but regardless if I ever have a long plane ride I'll be playing through this one again on 3DS.

Score: B+
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axelsteelfan 2024-01-17T22:06:47Z
2024-01-17T22:06:47Z
3.5
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Nintendo front loads their most popular franchises with a new slab of entries so frequently that one can forget about the other selections they offer. Japan’s richest company could probably still subsist from Mario and Zelda (and maybe Kirby) alone, which is why we mainly see fresh releases from these franchises as opposed to offering a smorgasbord of their properties per release schedule. As impressive as this is, I think the true testament to Nintendo’s monolithic presence in the gaming world is its vast catalog of IPs. Just use the success of Super Smash Bros. as a point of reference: every single character from Nintendo’s roster, no matter how old or how popular, elicits at least a respectable amount of excitement from most of their fans. Nintendo’s fans still remember their failures and burnt-out relics even if the company tries its best to sweep them up in a dustpan and dispose of them in the refuse of time. Nintendo kicked this process into overdrive in recent generations with several of their properties, but they’ve been doing this since their heyday on the NES. Kid Icarus used to be the poster boy of forsaken Nintendo franchises, debuting on the company’s first console with one title before being abandoned completely. Given that the game was released alongside generation-defining titans like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, it seemed like Kid Icarus was destined for success. However, upon playing Kid Icarus, it’s not hard to imagine why Kid Icarus didn’t catch on like its contemporaries.

But why was Kid Icarus reduced to a one-hit wonder when it was propped up amongst the architects of Nintendo’s legacy? Certainly, Kid Icarus is more inspired and offers more content to extrapolate on compared to its fellow NES stalemates like Ice Climber and Clu Clu Land. If one’s high school education needs dusting off, the game’s title alludes to the Greek myth of Icarus, the young man who infamously flew too close to the sun and fatally dipped into the ocean from the sky and drowned. Whether or not one sees this story from ancient times as a sympathetic tragedy or a fable poking at the hubris of man, Icarus has ostensibly resonated in popular culture from centuries onward. However, Kid Icarus is not an 8-bit rendering of the morality tale. Hell, the winged, cherublike protagonist of the game isn’t even named Icarus–but the blunt-sounding nickname of Pit. No matter, for the game can still borrow plenty from the gilded Greek mythos to sculpt something of substance. Kid Icarus presents itself as the same respectable tribute to the entirety of Greek mythology that Castlevania does with the golden age of horror films.

Then again, refusing to commit to a single source of inspiration might be the root cause of Kid Icarus’s downfall (no pun intended). Kid Icarus’s gameplay is cemented in the 2D platformer genre, but the game insists on warping the perspective for every level. The game begins as a vertical platformer, hopping upward on a series of clouds and Corinthian architecture to eventually reach the goal at the zenith point of the climb. The NES was no stranger to these sections spliced into the action of other 2D platformers, and their inclusion was a tense, thrilling mixup of the standard side-scrolling action. In Kid Icarus, however, prolonging these sections to the length of an entire level makes the ascent a hefty endurance test. Slipping down the cavernous pratfalls created by the scrolling screen devouring the level will obviously kill Pit instantly, which makes him channel his inner Daniel Plainview and scream “I’m finished!” as he is transported back to the beginning of the level. A one-life penalty seems harsh, but at least a password system is implemented instead of sending the player back to the start of the game upon dying. Still, these vertical levels feature far too many hazards, especially at the beginning of the game. The levels in the second act of the game adopt a more traditional trek to the right side of the screen, and the difference in difficulty between the opposing level axes is clear as day. Technically, Kid Icarus only offers 3 levels, but they are divided into four sections that extend those levels significantly. The sublevels are already lengthy enough as is, so the player has to endure an onslaught of hazards before they are victorious. The fourth sublevel will always remain constant: a labyrinth stage where the player must navigate through a series of rooms and find the correct path to the boss. These sublevels are intended to ape the dungeons in Zelda, but not even the hidden bomb passage in the first Zelda is as cryptic and circuitous as these befuddling excursions. Also, finding the dungeon map in Zelda would uncover the entire layout as opposed to putting a blank board on the screen shaped like a waffle with one glowing dot to indicate Pit’s location. Why do these levels punish the player so swiftly without them warranting it?

If the inflexible level design doesn’t crush the player’s spirit, the droves of mythical enemies definitely will. They complement each level’s challenge effectively, but more like an axis of evil and torment than anything. Snakes with wings will fall from the ceiling without little notice, and the piles of sludge that form from the ground are short enough to only scrape their heads with Pit’s arrows and piss me off. A particularly irksome enemy type is the reapers. These scythe-wielding phantoms go apeshit when they are aware of Pit’s presence, signaling four minions to swoop down on Pit and distract him from his trajectory. They also tend to be situated on the slimmest of platforms along the path, making them especially difficult to avoid. Really, the one enemy from Kid Icarus that is so notoriously vexing is the Eggplant Wizards. Where in the Greco-Roman texts do these robed cyclopses stem from? Probably none of them, but they’ve earned their spot in the Kid Icarus canon. They’ll lob their namesake fruit at Pit and if he comes in contact with one, their black magic will reduce him to nothing but an eggplant with legs. Being that eggplants are soft and squishy, Pit cannot fight in this handicapped state. The only solution is to visit a sectioned-off block of any fourth level dedicated to a doctor who’ll cure Pit’s ailment. Considering all the player has to reference is a rectangular pastry to find this specific area, pray to the Gods of Olympus if you stumble upon these purple bastards. Surprisingly, each boss at the end of every fourth level is relatively undemanding, even if Pit doesn’t free the petrified soldiers with the hammer items.

Only having the poor excuse for a map the game offers isn’t entirely accurate, I must admit. The player can purchase a pencil from one of the merchants, but the player would be better off saving their heart currency for other items. The saving grace of Kid Icarus is that the game becomes far less stressful once the player acquires all of the upgrades, permanently boosting their maximum health and damage output for the duration of the game. Other nifty tools to purchase are fire arrows, magic rods, and a glass of wine that restores a fair bit of health. How bohemian. While all of these upgrades seem like a practical solution to beating this game, none of them come cheap. I mean this quite literally as buying any of these items will break the bank, so the player will have to make an entrepreneurial decision on which item will be the best for them. If the game still proves to be excruciating with this frugal system, the other option is to farm hearts with a maximum quantity of ten. The player is forced to engage in several forced grinding sessions to make the game tolerable, and that aspect is absolutely unforgivable.

Also, the amount of items the player has on hand coincides with the ending the player receives. Kid Icarus already flirts around with different interpretations of the 2D platformer, so why not add a space shooter section as the final one for good measure? At the end of this overlong flight, Pit will take down Medusa, the prime mythical Greek figure who serves as the game’s main antagonist, by shooting the eye of the monstrous vegetation she’s hiding beneath. Paulutena, the damsel in distress, rewards Pit the same way a boss would. Depending on the player's diligence, Pit’s future will range from a lowly farmer to a prestigious role as a knight in her army. As far as I’m concerned, she can demote Pit to a shoe shiner because the qualifications needed to put Pit in a more lucrative position isn’t worth meeting. Sorry, Pit.

The main issue with Kid Icarus is that its gameplay identity wasn’t worth giving further attention to. The game isn’t any more cruel and cryptic than its peers at Nintendo, frustrating the player to no end and leaving them as lost as a gerbil in a test chamber. However, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid pioneered a fresh outlook on game design that the world would’ve been bereft of if Nintendo decided not to expand upon, despite their myriad of gameplay flaws. Pit throws every conceivable method of platforming in a 2D space at the wall and executes them all very poorly. I’m forgiving its rudimentary foundation to some extent like every NES game, but Kid Icarus simply doesn’t offer any visionary concepts. No wonder why Nintendo left Kid Icarus at the front steps of the gaming orphanage. Nintendo was only producing game changers at the time, and Kid Icarus didn’t quite cut it.
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Erockthestrange 2017-07-23T21:18:05Z
2017-07-23T21:18:05Z
5.0
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Catalog

Ellipses 光神話 パルテナの鏡 2024-06-20T21:39:11Z
2024-06-20T21:39:11Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
justpick1 光神話 パルテナの鏡 2024-06-20T05:05:52Z
2024-06-20T05:05:52Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
tackyproduct 光神話 パルテナの鏡 2024-06-04T04:44:29Z
2024-06-04T04:44:29Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
edef_ 光神話 パルテナの鏡 2024-05-29T07:34:47Z
2024-05-29T07:34:47Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sadgirl2023 Kid Icarus 2024-05-24T16:47:00Z
Switch
2024-05-24T16:47:00Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sadgirl2023 光神話 パルテナの鏡 2024-05-24T16:46:51Z
2024-05-24T16:46:51Z
4.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
C0ntra 3D Classics: Kid Icarus 2024-05-21T06:27:14Z
3DS
2024-05-21T06:27:14Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
kaaisu 3D Classics: Kid Icarus 2024-05-14T07:27:53Z
3DS
2024-05-14T07:27:53Z
1.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
talkingradioheads Kid Icarus 2024-05-14T00:02:23Z
NES • US
2024-05-14T00:02:23Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
2D platformer
CircoBondi Kid Icarus 2024-05-03T18:31:08Z
NES • US
2024-05-03T18:31:08Z
1.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mrmoptop2 3D Classics: Kid Icarus 2024-04-24T02:10:19Z
3DS
2024-04-24T02:10:19Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Roastpizza 光神話 パルテナの鏡 2024-04-15T07:22:27Z
2024-04-15T07:22:27Z
2.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
Media
1x Floppy
Franchises
In collections
Also known as
  • Kid Icarus
  • Myth of Light: The Mirror of Palutena
  • 3D Classics: Kid Icarus
  • View all [3] Hide

Comments

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Note: Unlike reviews, comments are considered temporary and may be deleted/purged without notice.
  • SemtexRevolution 2019-11-22 02:42:16.624906+00
    Damn I wanted to like this one
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  • Jaxijin 2021-01-21 15:25:04.269198+00
    It has really unique gameplay and a lot of great ideas, but is pretty hampered by typical early NES design. The underplayed Game Boy sequel vastly improves upon this, it's just too bad it never got as much attention as the original.
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  • MisTurHappy 2022-04-17 09:44:28.58188+00
    That main theme is one of my favorite pieces of music from any video game.
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  • mrelectric 2024-02-22 19:14:40.099624+00
    disk system version with battery save is great
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