CES: Third Party Licensee Games Fall Preview
At this year’s Summer CES Nintendo announced that ten more third party licensees have been signed to make games for the NES, bringing the total number of third parties up to fifteen. In recent months its the third party games that have been the most entertaining, especially with games like Ghosts ‘N Goblins, Gradius, and Castlevania. Here’s what was announced at the show:
Established Third Parties
Bandai really didn’t have anything new to show off at the show. Every game was already previously announced, but they put a major focus on their Family Fun Fitness mat that hooks up to the NES and gets the kids up and off the couch to do exercise. It comes packaged with the Athletic World Game Pak, and two more will be made available later this year: Stadium Events (pictured below) and Aerobics.
One of our favorite third party developers so far has been Capcom. They’ve had some great hits like Trojan and Ghosts ‘N Goblins. They’re busy working on a bunch more games for the NES.
Up next is Section Z, a side-scrolling space shooter in the vein of Gradius, except the stages are shorter and at the end of each level you get to choose an upper or lower path. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll be warped to a new stage, but you’ll have to be careful because if you choose the wrong path you could end up starting from scratch! This one should be available as soon as next month.
Later in the year Capcom has plans to release several new NES games. These include arcade ports of Speed Rumbler, Side Arms, and Gunsmoke (pictured below). We’ve enjoyed our time with Side Arms in the arcade and think it will be a perfect fit for Nintendo’s 8-bit system.
On the docket from Data East are four games set to release this year. They include arcade hits like Ring King (boxing), Kid Niki (ninjas), Karnov (fire-breathing dude), and BreakThru (bad-ass car combat).
Probably our favorite third party at the moment, Konami has amassed a solid line of hit games. For the remainder of the year they are looking at shipping four more games, and it looks like there’s a little something for everyone.
Double Dribble will mark the first basketball game for the NES. The realistic graphics and voices are sure to be like nothing before on the system.
Stinger is a cartoony shoot’em up that features both overhead action (like 1942) and side-scrolling levels (Gradius). The biggest draw seems to be its two-player simultaneous mode, which should prove to be exciting!
Top Gun promises to let you live the life of an air force jockey. You’ll get to shoot down bogeys and avoid incoming missiles just like in the movie. Maybe they’ll hide a volleyball game somewhere in the code?
And finally we have The Goonies II. We know what you’re thinking, what happened to The Goonies I? Well, as it turns out it did appear on the Famicom in Japan, but it seems that Konami is simply skipping that version to bring out its sequel over here. This one is supposed to have more meat to it, and will be a full-fledged Adventure Series game. We’re eager to see more.
Although Ikari Warriors is barely out on store shelves, SNK isn’t wasting any time in getting the sequel ready. Scheduled to come out this fall, Victory Road takes the same gameplay ideas, except this time the game takes place in the future. New to this version is the ability to enter shops to buy new weapons.
Every company needs its own space shooter, and Alpha Mission is SNK’s answer. It’s shaping up to be a colorful overhead shoot’em up and it’s up to you to save the Earth against alien scum.
Probably the most promising game being shown at CES from SNK is Athena. It’s a fantasy adventure that has you exploring the world for new weapons to take on the monsters. There’s a wide variety of scenarios, including flying high in the sky or swimming deep under the ocean.
Psycho Soldier is shrouded in mystery. The game is said to be a pseudo-sequel to Athena, but we haven’t seen any official screens or gameplay just yet. This one appears to be slated for 1988.
New Third Parties
This is a brand new company created specifically to bring out NES games. It’s being run by two former Activision executives who have no doubt seen the writing on the walls and want to cash in on the NES craze. In fact, it appears as of now that the company isn’t really doing any in-house game creation. Instead it has went to Japan and obtained the rights to released some Famicom games in North America.
The first is 3-D WorldRunner, originally developed by a company named Square. This one has you running into the screen and jumping and firing your gun at various alien enemies. The game comes packaged with a pair of 3D glasses for a more interactive experience.
Next up is Winter Games from EPYX. We’ve played the Summer Games on the C64 and it was a fantastic time. Hopefully new events like Speed Skating and Bobsled will be even better!
Finally Acclaim has its own space shooter on the way with Star Voyager, originally developed by ASCII. This one isn’t like any other on the NES, however. The game takes place inside the cockpit of your spacecraft and looks more like a flight simulator than a shoot’em up. Color us intrigued.
Fans of computer games will recognize this publisher. They’re bringing over some classic titles, such as Lode Runner. This maze game will have you climbing ladders to collect treasures and drilling new passages to trap enemies and find secrets.
Deadly Towers features some very unique graphics. They are drawn in such a way that the game appears to be in 3D, and it looks pretty great on the NES. The developers say this one can take awhile to explore so they are including a password system to allow you to continue your quest long after you’ve shut off your console.
Raid On Bungeling Bay has been a hit in Japan, with more than half a million sold by one of the more prolific game developers over there, Hudson Soft. This game has you piloting a helicopter in an overhead perspective, but you can fly around and roam in any direction you choose so you can shoot down the enemy forces.
Spelunker has you exploring vast caverns in search of gold and treasures. You’ll have to avoid the pitfalls and enemies as you jump and dive deeper into the depths. This game has appeared on other systems and computers before, and if the NES version holds up it should be an enjoyable experience.
Have we mentioned that every company seems to need a space shooter? Well, FCI is coming out with ZANAC, an overhead shoot’em up with lots of action and plenty of explosions. The final version should have at least eight different weapons to acquire to take down the opposing forces in style.
Landing firmly in the department of “Um..OK?” comes Lunar Pool. No, it’s not a game about taking a dip on the moon, it’s a billiards game. There are over 60 different tables to choose from, many completely insane. If you simply must have an electronic version of pool, this could be the ultimate one to get.
Irem has been making Famicom games from nearly the beginning. Many of its titles have come over here courtesy of other publishers. Now it has become a licensee and will be bringing some of its hits Stateside. The first will be Sqoon, Irem’s version of the space shooter. It’s an underwater submarine shoot’em up, but you’re still having to save the Earth from aliens!
The company also announced that it plans to release Kung Fu II. If you recall, the original was released as a launch title for the NES by Nintendo.
It appears that LJN Toys is hard at work securing movie licenses. It has Jaws: The Revenge in the works for the NES later this year. You’ll have to escape the possessed Great White before it takes a bite out of you.
Also on the way is The Karate Kid. The movie was a huge hit, and now that we think about it, it could make for a fun game. You’ll have to train in the martial arts to defeat your enemies!
Finally, LJN has three more games announced: Major League Baseball (which includes all teams), Gotcha! (a new Zapper paintball game), and Town & Country Surfing/Skateboarding.
Although not a space shoot’em up, SkyKid is a colorful side-scrolling shooter. This one is set during World War I and features singe engine prop bi-planes. You can go solo or team up with a friend to take down tanks and battleships.
One of our all-time favorite arcade games is coming to the NES courtesy of Sunsoft! Spy Hunter is making its way home in style, with near-accurate arcade graphics and sound. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last five years, Spy Hunter is an auto-scrolling fast-paced car combat game that requires reflexes of steel to stay alive. You’ll go up against a wide variety of enemy vehicles, but you’ll have machine guns, oil slicks, smoke screens, and more at your disposal to take them out once and for all!
Taito is a famous maker of arcade games (does Space Invaders ring a bell?) so it’s not a surprise to see them convert more arcade hits to the NES. Coming soon are: Elevator Action, The Legend of Kage, Renegade, and Arkanoid. Arkanoid is a special case since it comes bundled with a special paddle to allow for more accurate movement in this Breakout-type puzzle game.
You may not be as familiar with this company as some of the others, but it has been creating some top-selling content in Japan. We’ve played a bit of Rygar, and this one’s something special. From the detailed graphics to the catchy music, this Adventure game will surely keep your attention for a long time to come. With a unique weapon, an extensive inventory screen, and fun exploration mechanics, we think it will be a hit. We’ll have a full review next month, but it’s already shaping up as one of the best games of the year!
Also on the way is Star Force, which is…wait for it…yep…a space shoot’em up! How’d you ever guess? It features an overhead viewpoint and decent visuals. We’re not sure how it will stand out from the pack, but maybe it will turn into something special.
Finally we have Mighty Bomb Jack and Solomon’s Key. The former is an action game where you collect bombs and treasures while avoiding enemies to make it to the exit. The latter is a unique puzzle solving game where you can conjure up magical blocks to reach new areas. Find the key and get to the exit!
Activision & Romstar
Both companies announced support for the NES. However, neither of them announced any forthcoming titles, so we’re left in the dark as to what’s in the works. When we learn more, we’ll be sure to pass along the information!
It’s obvious that gaming is back, and in a big way! With more companies than ever before signed on to make NES games, there will be more variety and choice than ever before. Of course, not every game is destined to be good, so keep an eye out for our reviews so you can spend your money wisely. Let’s hope the quality continues to stay high – we don’t want a repeat of the 1983 crash!
Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He’s currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.