Cabal Retro Review (Nintendo NES)

Dancing in the streets!


A conversion of the 1988 the Tad Corporation coin-op of the same name, Cabal came out at a time when this style of shooting game was very much in vogue. Titles such as Operation Wolf, Terminator 2: Arcade Game and Line of Fire were all the rage and everyone wanted to cash in. Where Cabal differs from these other titles is that you actually see your character on the screen and also it didn’t scroll, in fact in many ways it was reminiscent of the much earlier 1983 Exidy arcade classic Crossbow. This means that it actually adapted much better to home systems because it required a joystick rather than a light gun. I was personally a huge fan of the original arcade game and purchased Ocean Software’s incredible ZX Spectrum version as soon as it was released and a later bought the game again when I upgraded to an Atari ST. As such a huge fan of Cabal I was pretty interested to find out that a NES port existed and even more intrigued to find out if it matched up to the majesty of Ocean’s home versions.


I already mentioned how Cabal is viewed from a third person perspective. This means that you are required to move both a crosshair to shoot stuff, which is done by holding down the fire button, and your actual character to stop him getting shot! One of the other more original features of Cabal is the way you can both destroy (with several hits) and hide behind large parts of the scenery, using it as a shield. As well as your trusty machine gun your character is also armed with a limited number of hand grenades. The grenades are very useful for despatching tanks, helicopters and large parts of scenery when needed so should be conserved. As the level increase so does the amount of firepower needed to despatch the enemy. Essentially each level is just a single screen affair but there is more than enough to keep you interested. Possibly my favourite feature of Cabal is the way your character dances off into the distance when you complete a level! Of all the crosshair style shooting games out there the original arcade version of Cabal (and indeed Ocean’s excellent computer ports) is my favourite and a game that I feel deserves a lot more attention than it gets.


Sadly this NES port of Cabal is a pretty poor conversion all in all. The graphics are very simple, lacking in detail and feature some awful colour choices, which I found to be a problem with many of Milton Bradley’s NES games. Then there is also the horrendous sprite flicker and slowdown too, making NES Cabal borderline unplayable at times. It does fare a bit better when it comes to the sound though as both the effects and music are pretty decent. Thankfully the co-op two-player mode is retained from the original and the rest of the playability is mostly indicted, it’s the technical problems that let NES Cabal down the most. As such a huge fan of Cabal I really wanted to love this NES version, but I just cannot hide my disappointment. It’s not that NES Cabal is a terrible game by any means, far from it, but it’s just not the game it could have been. Oh how I wish that the amazingly good looking Atari Lynx port had seen a release because it leaves this as the only way to play Cabal on a home console and that makes me very sad.

Final Verdict: 2.5/5


Available on: Nintendo Entertainment System (reviewed), Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST, DOS PC, Commodore Amiga ; Publisher: Milton Bradley ; Developer: Zippo Games ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: 1990 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: N/A

Kieren Hawken
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