Solomon’s Key is a rather strange affair because if you didn’t already know you would probably be shocked to find out that it’s actually a conversion of an arcade game by Tecmo. With its strategy puzzle game style gameplay it’s not the type of game you would expect to find in a dimly lit arcade. Solomon’s Key involves you using a magic wand to both destroy and create bricks in order to get the key and escape to the next part of the temple. However not all the bricks can be destroyed and these can end up trapping you in a place of no escape. There are also some spooky ghosts and monsters trying to stop you, which only adds to the difficulty of your task. Solomon’s Key starts off fairly tame but it gets challenging pretty quickly and so you will need to keep your wits about you. The NES port Solomon’s Key does make a few adjustments from the original arcade game but in most cases this is for the better leaving us with a fun and taxing puzzler that will keep you playing for some time.
I still have brilliant memories of playing Ice Climber round my next door neighbour’s house when I was a kid. It was the first game he ever bought for the system and we used to play it for hours on end. It’s a vertically scrolling platformer that plays a bit like Taito’s classic Rainbow Islands. You play a little Eskimo and must try to get to the top of a series of mountains within a time limit. You do this by using your hammer to smash through the layers of ice and to bash the birds and beasties trying to stop you. At the top of each mountain is a bonus stage where you must collect vegetables for bonus points and jump on the clouds to reach the peak. Once you get there you see a big bird flying over head, you need to jump just in time for him to catch you in order to complete the stage. As the levels you on you get extra hazards like falling icicles, moving platforms and enemies that fill in all the gaps. I generally hate platformers but even the freezing mountains of Ice Climber warmed my heart.
Double Dragon II
After the horror that was the original Double Dragon on the NES I wasn’t hoping for much from its sequel, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! In my opinion, what we have here, is the best game ever released for the 8-bit Nintendo. Like the first game this isn’t a like for like port of the original arcade version but instead has a loose association with it. The levels are completely different but follow many of the same themes and feature many of the same bad guys too. They also copied the control method from the Double Dragon II arcade game where the two buttons attack in different directions rather than always straight ahead of you. This is really weird at first but actually works quite well once you get the hang of it and eliminates all cheap attacks from behind. Double Dragon II on the NES still has the problem of only having two enemies on screen at once but with the larger levels, far superior graphics, extra weapons, better bosses and no stupid heart system it becomes a real winner!