The Lone Ranger is almost an incredible game. ALMOST. So close. But not close enough.

Konami proudly published this one under their own name instead of relegating it to the "Ultra Games" ghetto, which is usually an indication of quality. But the B squad of Ultra clearly was involved here, as the game looks and plays like a mashup of elements from Snake's Revenge, the first Ninja Turtles game and the unpublished-in-the-West Goemon games.

That said, it starts out as a *good* mashup. The Lone Ranger starts his quest to hunt down Butch Cavendish with little more than a few rounds and his walkin' boots. The first order of the day is to find Silver. You walk about an almost Zelda 2-esque overworld map between towns (in which you heal up, buy ammo and get clues from townsfolk) and danger areas (the game's side-scrolling levels where usually a pack of outlaws are holed up.) There's a rudimentary quest system; for example, to find Silver you start at the nearby town of Tucson questioning the citizenry. They tell you Silver escaped across the river, but when you get there you find the bridge is out. The bridge operator won't lower the bridge without a note from nearby Dodge City's sherrif. The sherrif will give the note if you clear out a nearby nest of outlaws in the mountains. Etc., etc.

Gunplay occurs in towns and in encounters on the trail from an overhead view. It's easy to distinguish friend from foe in town, as every woman politely offers tips pertinent to your quest and every man comes at you shooting and hucking knives. Ambushes on the trail are a little more difficult, as they feature outlaws that take multiple hits and sometimes respawning hordes as well. But they are also fairly easily cleared as you can simply run through them to the other side, which makes the roving pack disappear for some reason.

Where the game falls apart is in the side-view levels. Whoever designed those rotten TMNT side-view levels clearly had their stinky little fingers in the works here, as they feature the same "jump off the ledge at the last possible nanosecond" precision jumps. Enemy AI and placement are simplistic, yet often very challenging just through sheer clunkiness.

In some cave levels you also get the rude surprise of switching to a first-person mode that's even more clunky. Were you wondering why the game asked you if you wanted to use the Zapper at the outset? Yeah, this is why, though it takes a fair bit of gameplay time to even get to one of these.

The Lone Ranger came out very late in the NES's lifespan and at that time there was kind of a mania for side-scrolling platformer/run-and-gun games that also periodically incorporated a bunch of other gimmicky modes of play. Generally these games just tried to do too much and didn't focus enough on their core action, and the whole thing came out kind of a clunky mess (another great example of a game with potential that was totally squandered by this design philosophy on the NES was Mafat Conspiracy, which came out just a year before this.) So that's what I think the Ranger's problem is, well that and the fact that the team behind some of Ultra's larger poop logs seemed to be involved.
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